While Congress chief Rahul Gandhi castigated the Narendra Modi-led BJP government stating that the note ban exercise cost 1.5 million jobs and 1 per cent of India's GDP, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley staunchly defended the move saying there was a spike in the number of taxpayers.

On the second anniversary of demonetisation, BJP and Congress were locked in a bitter war of words on Thursday. While Congress chief Rahul Gandhi castigated the Narendra Modi-led BJP government stating that the note ban exercise cost 1.5 million jobs and 1 per cent of India’s GDP, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley staunchly defended the move saying there was a spike in the number of taxpayers.

Jaitley, in a Facebook post, reiterated that demonetisation has helped the country achieve formalisation of the economy and ensured financial inclusion of the weaker sections. The main achievements, he said, were 80 per cent jump in income tax return filers, the rise in digital transactions and more resources being available for poor and for building better infrastructure.

The finance minister further said with the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), it is now becoming increasingly difficult to evade the tax system and the indirect tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio has gone up to 5.4 per cent post-GST, from 4.4 per cent in 2014-15. Terming the criticism that almost the entire cash money got deposited in banks post demonetisation as “ill-informed”, Jaitley said confiscation of currency was not an objective of demonetisation.

Stepping up its attack on the Congress, the BJP posed 10 questions to the grand old party ranging from what the party did to eliminate corruption and black money when it was in power, to doubting credentials of former finance minister P Chidambaram to speak on policy issues when he himself is under the radar of probe agencies for “massive corruption”.

Here’s what opposition leaders said on the second anniversary of demonetisation 

Describing demonetisation as a “monumental blunder” and a “carefully planned criminal financial scam”, Gandhi said the move was a “self-inflicted, suicidal attack that destroyed millions of lives and ruined thousands of India’s small businesses”. He said that the move of sucking out 86 per cent of currency in circulation brought the “economy to a grinding halt”.

“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,” he added.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh continued to criticise the move and said the “”ill-thought” exercise’s “scars and wounds” are more visible on the second anniversary of “economic misadventure”. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, meanwhile, accused the government of trying to capture the Reserve Bank of India’s Rs 9.6 lakh crore reserve to tide over its fiscal crisis.

Questioning the rationale behind the note ban, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal termed it as “a self-inflicted deep wound” on the Indian economy.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee joined the chorus and alleged that the demonetisation was for the benefit of a handful of people, while terming November 8, 2016, as “darkest day of India”.

The Narendra Modi-led government on November 8, 2016, demonetised high-value currency notes of old 500 and 1000 rupee notes, constituting 86 per cent of the currency in circulation, to check black money in the system. Of the Rs 15.41 lakh crore worth Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in circulation on November 8, 2016, 99.3 per cent or notes worth Rs 15.31 lakh crore have returned to the banking system.

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