MUMBAI: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray today targeted the Narendra Modi government over the alleged Rs 11,400 crore PNB scam, questioning how it took place despite demonetisation.
Thackeray, whose party shares power with BJP both at the Centre and in Maharashtra, said the PNB scam had pushed the controversy surrounding the purchase of Rafale fighter jets to the backburner.
"How were loans worth thousands of crores (or rupees) given?... Scams are coming out in the open one after the other. Due to this issue (PNB scam), the Rafale scam has been put on the backburner," Thackeray said.
He was speaking to reporters here after launching a book by Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe, who completed 20 years in the party.
The PNB scam relates to fraudulent issuance of Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) to the tune of Rs 11,400 crore to the Nirav Modi group firms and his uncle Mehul Choksi in Mumbai.
The CBI has arrested several people in connection with the alleged scam but Nirav Modi and Choksi had left the country before the matter came to light recently. "How was it possible for some people to siphon off thousands of crores of rupees in the past two-three years when, during demonetisation, ordinary people were asked several questions when they went to their banks to withdraw cash?" he asked.
"Bigwigs indulge in corruption and leave the country. However, poor farmers, who have taken small loans but are unable to repay them, are forced to end their lives."
He said there was an atmosphere of suspicion towards banks in the country today as people had deposited their life's savings thinking the banking sector was safe.
However, when a bank goes bust even by someone's action taken intentionally, the government takes responsibility for a saving of just Rs 1 lakh, he said.
"I have asked the Sena MPs to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the (Union) Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley) and submit a memorandum to stress that the government should take complete responsibility for the people's money (savings in the banks)," Thackeray said.
He went on to question, "If the government can wring our necks and collect taxes, why can't it safeguard our money?"
Responding to a query on his absence from the just-held "Magnetic Maharashtra" business summit organised by the state government, Thackeray said, "No actual work was done despite several MoUs being signed and 'bhoomipujan' (foundation stone laying ceremony) being conducted.
"I will now go only for the actual inauguration of projects. Many a time, policies of the Centre and the state change and projects don't take off. It remains to be seen how many projects actually fructify this time. Care should be taken to ensure that the money received by way of investments is not taken away like how (Nirav) Modi did," he said.