STORY: Vice-president of India’s opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, on Friday (February 17) hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his demonetisation move, saying that it had adversely affected the country’s small-scale industry and farmers.
Gandhi, who was joined by his sister Priyanka Gandhi, made the comments at a grand rally in Rae Bareli in the poll-bound northern Uttar Pradesh state.
Rae Bareili is the pocket borough of Gandhis as it is represented by the party president Sonia Gandhi in the lower house of parliament.
The seven-phase voting is underway in Uttar Pradesh to elect a new assembly to govern the mostly poor state of nearly 220 million people that lies along the river Ganges.
“Note ban has badly hit small-scale businesses, shopkeepers and farmers. And Modi says that it is a step against corruption,” said Rahul Gandhi.
Modi scrapped 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, worth around $7.50 and $15 respectively, on November 08, billing it as an attempt to root out corruption, end terror financing and move the country into the age of digital payments.
Priyanka Gandhi termed Modi’s demonetisation move as an act of atrocity against the women.
“He (PM Modi) did note ban and forced you to throw your savings as pieces of paper are thrown. When you were made to stand in queues in banks, wasn’t that an atrocity against women?” asked Priyanka Gandhi.
Modi’s demonetisation move was aimed at cracking down on the shadow economy, but it brought India’s cash economy to a virtual standstill as millions of Indians lined up outside banks and ATMs to exchange old banknotes or to withdraw money from their accounts.
The elections in Uttar Pradesh will have a key influence on Modi’s chances of clinching a second term as prime minister in 2019.
BJP is pitted against an alliance of the state’s ruling Samajwadi (socialist) Party and the grand old Congress party. In the third corner of the contest is low caste Dalit leader Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which ruled the state from 2007 to 2012.
Modi’s nationalist party hopes to replicate its strong performance in 2014 general elections when it polled 42 percent of the vote in state in 2014 general elections, sweeping 71 out of 80 seats. However, pollsters say it will be tough.
Any party polling significantly over 30 percent of the vote can win by a landslide.
Results for Uttar Pradesh elections, along with those in the states of Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur, are due on March 11.