New Delhi, Dec 14: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today took potshots in the Lok Sabha at L K Advani's Jan Chetna Yatra and the BJP's declaration that none of its MPs held illegal bank accounts abroad.
In his reply to the debate on Adjournment Motion moved by Advani on the issue of blackmoney, Mukherjee said though he appreciated the BJP leader's efforts it was not clear what purpose would be served by it.
“I would like to know the outcome of the Jan Chetna Yatra .... He undertook this arduous journey from one end (of the country) to the other,” Mukherjee said.
However, he sought to know if this exercise would make those holding blackmoney accounts reduce their activity and disclose their accounts details.
In another jibe at the opposition, Mukherjee said he did not intend to “win any brownie points here and there” and hence would not indulge in giving some fancy figures about the quantum of Indian blackmoney abroad.
Mukherjee also took dig at the opposition and the media for highlighting the name of a certain Swiss Bankers' Association, saying despite all his “sincere efforts” in the last two years, including asking the government of Switzerland, he could not locate this body.
Virtually ridiculing the declarations submitted by BJP MPs that they do not have any illegal money stashed away in foreign banks, Mukherjee said, “Nobody will say he has black money.”
Several members had an amused look when Mukherjee pointed out that the opposition charge of India signing the double taxation treaty only in 2012 was wrong as it was signed in September 2010. “I do not need anybody to tell me this as I am the signatory,” he said.
Referring to a judgement in a case filed by lawyer and MP Ram Jethmalani, Mukherjee said he was “really disturbed” that none other than a former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister had quoted it when the judgement is not yet complete as it has been sent to a higher bench.
Advani clarified later that he was aware of the status of the judgement.
The minister said tax evaders were equally bright and disclosing their names - as per the demand of the opposition - would make them withdraw their money from the accounts.
“What do you achieve by declaring their names?... You say declare money kept in Swiss banks as national assets. How do you get it back? Shall I send forces. You can only get these through international agreements,” Mukherjee said.
The Minister clarified that no MP figured in the list of foreign bank account holders available with the government.
“No MP's name did I find in the list that I have,” he said.
He insisted that he agrees with Advani that an adjournment motion is a censure of the government but conceded to it as he wanted the House to run.
On his part, Advani targeted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying the flow of illicit Indian money to foreign banks had increased since 1991 though tax rates here are the lowest in the world.
“After 1991, the flow of illicit money abroad has been more.... Since our Prime Minister became the Finance Minister,” he said.
Singh is credited with ushering in liberalisation in 1991 as Finance Minister in the Narasimha Rao government.
Advani also maintained that he was “unable to understand what influence (Pune-based stud farm owner) Hassan Ali has” which prevents the government from taking any action against him.