PATNA: In a surprising move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'friend' and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday made a U-turn and questioned benefits of the Centre's much-hyped demonetisation move.
The Janata Dal-United leader sought to know if the Centre's sudden decision to ban the old currency notes of high denomination actually benefited the poor and the downtrodden, the marginalised and the weaker sections of the society.
The Bihar politician also slammed the banks for allegedly helping the rich and powerful manage their cash during the notes ban.
"I was initially the supporter of demonetisation...but how many people benefited from it? Some powerful people shifted their cash from one place to another," Nitish Kumar said.
He made these remarks at a meeting with bank officials here.
It is possibly the first time that the veteran Bihar politician, who is also president of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), has questioned the demonetisation move of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
Incidentally, Nitish Kumar's remarks against the Centre's December 2016 demonetisation move came on a day when the saffron party was celebrating the completion of four years of Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
Nitish Kumar's party JD(U) is a BJP ally and runs a coalition government in Bihar.
The Bihar Chief Minister made these remarks in front of his deputy and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.
After the Chief Minister expressed his reservations about the benefits of demonetisation to the man on the street, Sushil Kumar Modi, who was also present, downplayed his statement, saying, "Nitish Kumar has been a supporter of demonetisation."
In 2016, Nitish Kumar, then part of a Grand Alliance of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress, had supported demonetisation.
Several political parties, including Congress, RJD-led by Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mayawati's BSP and Akhilesh Yadav-led SP had strongly opposed the notes ban move.
They alleged that the demonetisation had badly hurt the Indian economy and retarded the engine of growth and development.