The Congress Thursday launched a multi-pronged attack on the Modi government over demonetisation, with former prime minister Manmohan Singh saying the "scars and wounds" it caused are getting more visible with time and party chief Rahul Gandhi describing the measure as a carefully planned "criminal financial scam".
In a scathing assessment of the demonetisation exercise, Singh said the decision's second anniversary Thursday is a day to remember how "economic misadventures" can roil the nation.
In a statement, he asked the government not to resort to further unorthodox, short-term economic measures that can cause any more uncertainty in the economy.
Gandhi also came out with a statement sharply criticising demonetisation and describing it as a "tragedy" that destroyed millions of lives.
In a tweet, he also alleged that demonetisation was a planned "brutal conspiracy" and a "shrewd scheme" to convert the black money of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "suit-booted friends" to white.
"India will discover, no matter how the government tries to hide it, that demonetisation wasn't just an ill-conceived and poorly executed economic policy with 'innocent intent', but a carefully planned, criminal financial scam," Gandhi said in his statement.
"The full truth about demonetisation is not out yet. India's people will not rest till it is," he said.
Their remarks came after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said demonetisation resulted in formalisation of economy and increased tax base. The BJP Thursday also posed 10 questions to the Congress, asking why its finds merit in protesting every "anti-corruption" measure of the Modi government and accused it of "living in denial" despite a surge in GDP numbers.
Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram described demonetisation as the "most ingeniously-designed official money-laundering scheme", because, he said, practically every single currency note was officially exchanged at the bank counters.
"Demonetisation did not put an end to fake currency. On the contrary, counterfeiters have successfully counterfeited the new Rs 2,000 and the new Rs 500 notes," he told a press conference in Kolkata.
Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked why the BJP government did not issue any advertisement or congratulate people on the second anniversary of demonetisation as they had done in the past.
He alleged that demonetisation was the "biggest scam" of independent India and that the black money of several people was converted to white through the move.
"What did the country get, was black money found, was counterfeit currency recovered, did it stop naxalism and terrorism, instead the Indian economy suffered a loss of Rs 3 lakh crore," he claimed.
"Time has come for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take responsibility for this destruction and apologise...Time has come that the scam of notebandi is probed and those guilty are caught. The country will not forget, it remembers and is ready to hit back with the might of its votes," Surjewala said.
Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma, at a press conference here, alleged that demonetisation was "a big money laundering project", NPAs have increased sharply, the banking system was struggling, and now the Modi government was bent on "snatching" the contingency reserves of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Sharma announced that the Congress will hold a nationwide protest on Friday to mark the second anniversary of demonetisation.
In his statement, former prime minister Singh said: "Notebandi impacted every single person, regardless of age, gender, religion, occupation or creed."
"It is often said that time is a great healer. But unfortunately, in the case of demonetisation, the scars and wounds of demonetisation are only getting more visible with time," he said.
Beyond the "steep drop" in headline GDP growth numbers after demonetisation, the deeper ramifications of 'notebandi' are still unravelling, Singh said.
Gandhi, in his statement, said on the second anniversary of the prime minister's "monumental blunder, the government's spin-doctors, including our incompetent finance minister, have the unenviable task of defending an indefensible, criminal policy".
"Demonetisation was a tragedy. India has faced many tragedies in its past. Many a time have envious, external enemies tried to hurt us. But demonetisation is unique in the history of our tragedies because it was a self-inflicted, suicidal attack that destroyed millions of lives and ruined thousands of India's small businesses," he alleged.
He claimed that the worst hit by demonetisation were the poorest of the poor, who he said were forced to queue for days to exchange their meagre savings.
Modi's demonetisation cost India over one and a half million jobs and wiped out at least 1 per cent from India's GDP, Gandhi alleged.
"November 8th will forever go down in the history of India, as a day of infamy. Two years ago, on this day, Prime Minister Modi unleashed the tyranny of demonetisation on the nation.
According to Gandhi, over 120 Indians died in those queues, millions of small and medium businesses were "smashed" and the entire informal sector "devastated".
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)