VENKATESH KESARI | 20 JANUARY, 2017

Former PM Singh's "Rescue" of RBI Chief Does Not Go Down Well With Congress MPs


NEW DELHI: The Congress party is not happy with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. And while all senior leaders are silent, no one has taken kindly to PM Singh’s “unnecessary” intervention in support of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance recently.

Singh who has earned kudos from many in the ruling establishment since, had stepped in with a “do not answer that question” to Patel who had been summoned by the standing committee MPs to answer questions about the RBI and demonetisation.Significantly, the question that Singh---and not Patel---objected to had been asked by senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh about the impact on banks if RBI were to lift the ceiling on the withdrawal of money from the ATMs and banks.

The Congress has been leading the campaign against demonetisation in Parliament. And has held several protest programs outside. Even on the day that the former PM intervened in favour of the RBI Governor, the Congress workers had hit the streets acoss the country demanding Patel’s resignation. His silence has made him a target, with the Opposition parties keen on unravelling the role of the RBI Governor in the demonetisation process.

Although no one present countered Singh, there are now murmurings within the party questioning his intervention in the standing committee deliberations. The denial could have come from the Governor himself, and there was no need for Singh to jump in when the members were trying to do their job, is the growing consensus amongst the opposition parties. And more so the Congress party although members refuse to go on the record on this issue.

Dr Manmohan Singh, the credible face of the party, had himself spoken against the demonetization and its impact on the GDP ,job loss, both inside and outside parliament fearing that the worst has yet to come. His intervention thus in the standing committee came as a surprise to all. Even the standing committee chairperson M.Veerappa Moily fell in line, pointing out reportedly that pointed questions that could harm the RBI as an institution should not be asked by the members.

Demonetisation has been taken up by the Congress as a key plank in the forthcoming state elections. In this the role of the RBI figures prominently, with protests now seeking Patel’s resignation from the top post. AICC general secretary and the Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad made it clear that the forthcoming Assembly elections will be a referendum on this decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the campaign the Congress has been also focusing on the role of the RBI Governor with the standing committee exercise being seen by the party, and the Opposition, as an opportunity to clear many of the doubts. These issues of concern have been raised in discussions, and interventions in both Houses of Parliament by the MPs at different levels, and the question asked by Digvijay Singh is not seen as having strayed from the questions that the Opposition of the Governor publicly. This makes the former PM’s rebuttal for Patel all the more inexplicable for the Congress party.

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