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Would Have Quit if Forced to Implement Demonetisation, Says Chidambaram

Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday said, "Demonetisation was a bad idea, full stop. GST is a good idea, but it has been hastily implemented. It should have been implemented with due care and attention."

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Updated:October 28, 2017, 11:59 PM IST
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Would Have Quit if Forced to Implement Demonetisation, Says Chidambaram
File image of P. Chidambaram. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
Rajkot: Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over demonetisation and said he would have quit as finance minister if forced to implement the measure.

"If my PM had asked me to do demonetisation, I would have advised him 'please don't', and if he had insisted, then I would have resigned," he said.

The former finance minister said note ban was anything but a “bold step”. "What’s a bold step? A farmer who commits suicide is also a bold step? Do you welcome it? Committing suicide also requires courage. I call it rash, reckless and an adventurous step. Demonetisation has destroyed lives. Nearly, 140 people lost their lives. Demonetisation was a foolish step,” he said.

Chidambaram said the note ban had failed to achieve its much-touted objectives like ending black money and curbing terror funding, adding India did not have black money but a tax-evading "shadow economy".

"The answer to shadow economy is to make your tax system more efficient. If you put cruel tax rates, people will avoid it. People will say why should I pay. If you make the tax system friendly, they will pay. The answer is not demonetisation. It's like saying there is a mosquito in my house, so I am going to burn down my whole house," he added

The Congress leader said demonetisation and "rushing through with the GST were two major mistakes" of the Modi government.

"Demonetisation was a bad idea, full stop. GST is a good idea, but it has been hastily implemented. It should have been implemented with due care and attention," he added.

Pitching for a cap on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) at 18 percent, the former Union minister flayed multiple slabs in the rate structure.

Delivering the lecture on the economy organised by the local trading community, Chidambaram said the prime minister's ambitious bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai should not have been a priority.

Focus, he said, should have been on improving safety, cleanliness, better compartments and stations, better signalling systems and improving suburban transport.

"Hardly 600 people will use bullet train (on one way journey) when it is completed, and government has borrowed huge amount of money from Japan for this. Instead the government should utilise the money for health and education, which the people want," he said, adding bullet train can become a priority 10-15 years later not now.

He also flayed the Gujarat model of development, saying "Vikas gando thayo che (development has gone crazy)". The Congress has launched a social media campaign in the poll-bound state by the same name.

Chidambaram criticised the Election Commission for not declaring the dates for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls simultaneously.

"There was an unusual delay in declaring poll dates for Gujarat. The only conclusion is that the (central) government wanted to prevent announcement of sops by the Congress government there (in Himachal) and wanted to do the same in Gujarat. The EC could have either declared it (the polls) together on October 12 or on October 24."

Apparently targeting the government over the arrest of journalist Vinod Verma in connection with the alleged sex tape scandal involving a Chhattisgarh minister, Chidambaram alleged efforts were being made to "silence" critics, especially journalists who do investigative stories.

- With inputs from agencies
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