Prime Minister Narendra Modi today took the opposition Congress head on for their continuous criticism on the demonetisation move. Hitting back, the PM said that it did not have the strength to touch high value currency during its rule and asserted that the "clean up" was required as a lot had been looted in the last 70 years.
"I am surprised that the Congress is asking why did I stop Rs 1000 notes and 500 notes. When you stopped 25 paise, did we say anything? You could dare to stop only 25 paise, that's what your power was limited to. But you did not make higher denomination currency notes illegal. ... We did it.”
"People have chosen a government and they expect so much from it," Modi said, as he took on Congress which has been critical of the Centre's demonetisation move.
"You had also agreed to stop (black money), but you did not have the strength to stop big notes. You wanted to run the vehicle (by stopping) 25 paise," he said.
Lashing out at the previous UPA government, he said, "On the night of November 8, at 8 o'clock, did you see (what happened)? In 2012, 2013, 2014 newspapers were filled with news about lots of money being eaten up in scams like coal and 2G. But after November 8, their position was such that they had to stand in line for Rs 4,000."
"Those who question me today... those who had heard my speeches... I have not said this for the first time. Many years ago I had said in a public function that Congress doesn't have strength so they are stopping 25 paise, if I'm given a chance I will stop Rs 1,000 note," he said.
The Prime Minister, who was speaking at the centenary celebrations of Karnataka Lingayat Education (KLE) Society, a leading educational institution here, said the government did not want to harass the honest but would not spare the dishonest.
"... it has been 70 years, tell me has the country been looted or not? Has corruption taken place or not? Are big stacks of cash lying at houses or not?" the Prime Minister said, strongly defending "the war" against black money.
"Enough has been looted. You have seen looters. For 70 years the country has been looted, give me 70 months I will clean it up," he added.
"These people who used to ask what has Modi done? Switch on your TV and see what Modi did on 8th November," he said.
Stating that he has started a "sacred work" for the "honesty" people, he added, "If you believe in my honesty and my work, if you believe in my words to clean up notes I need you blessings, please bless me.”
Asserting that he has not hidden anything from the people, Modi sought their support in "protecting the honest" in the ongoing drive against black money, amid reports of long queues and cash crunch at banks and post offices where people thronged to exchange the now-invalid currency.
"If I lie, you have the right to get angry on me. I had said on the first day, give me 50 days for this work, give me time till 30 December. I had said on the first day itself that there will be difficulty till 30 December. I have worked taking the country into confidence.
"There are crores of people in this country who are living with honesty. Please tell me isn't it the duty of the government to protect the honest, to punish the dishonest?" he said seeking people's support on the issue.
"The country is happy. On November 8, the poor of India slept in peace and the rich went in search of sleeping pills but no one was there to give it to them," he remarked.
Emphasising that "humongous task" was involved in the operation, Modi said, "I have only asked you for 50 days for the sake of the country."
The government had removed tax on credit cards and debit cards in budget, he said, adding, "It was done because I had to do this today."
(With PTI inputs)