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'Government looking for math tutor': Rahul Gandhi takes swipe at RBI

The Congress took a swipe at the Modi government for the central bank still counting currency notes banned last year, with Rahul Gandhi suggesting that the government needed lessons in mathematics.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram asked why the bank wanted to buy more currency counting machines when it could lease them.

Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel told the parliamentary standing committee on Wednesday that he could not put a number on the number of the notes sucked out of circulation after Prime Minister Narendra Modi abruptly banned high value currency notes last November.

Patel explained that officials were still counting the scrapped notes and declined to set a timeline for the exercise to complete, prompting a taunt from a lawmaker who wondered if the counting would be completed by March next year.

The Congress vice president on Thursday took aim at the Prime Minister's Office. "GOI looking for a Math tutor. Please apply to PMO ASAP," Gandhi said on Twitter, a reference to news report on the central bank still counting demonetised notes.

Incidentally, the central bank did put out statistics of the scrapped currency notes that were deposited or exchanged by people in the weeks after the 8 November ban. But this was abruptly stopped by the RBI after the finance ministry suggested in public that the central bank had got its math wrong. The central bank took the hint and treats the figures about deposits of the scrapped currency notes as a state secret.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram took a jab at the RBI on Thursday, referring to media reports that the RBI would buy more note-counting machines. "RBI buying note counting machines 8 months after demonetisation! Has RBI not heard of 'leasing'," he tweeted.

He next turned to the government's claims that it had provided self-employment opportunities to over 7 crore people, especially the youth, under its Mudra loan scheme. "7.28 crore youth self-employed under MUDRA loan scheme' -- that is title of mythological serial beginning today. Scriptwriters may apply," he posted on Twitter.

Reports that the central bank was buying counting machines - the information on which Chidambaram based his attack on - may not be accurate. The RBI had put out a tender in May this year to lease 18 such machines, just as the Congress leader had advised.