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Rajnath Singh Says PM Modi Never Promised Rs 15 Lakh – But Did He?

Did PM Modi promise that Rs 15 lakh will be credited in the bank accounts of all Indians?

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Did PM Modi promise that Rs 15 lakh will be credited in the bank accounts of all Indians?
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On Tuesday, 9 April, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in an interview to ANI, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi – and by extension the BJP – had "never" promised that Rs 15 lakh will be deposited to the bank accounts of all Indians.

“Never said that Rs 15 lakh will come (to accounts of people). This was never said. (Bilkul nahi kaha tha ki Rs 15 lakh aenge. Ye kabhi nahi kaha tha). We had said that we will take action (karyawahi) against black money. Action is being taken against black money. It was our government which made SIT on the topic of black money.”
Rajnath Singh, as quoted by ANI

A few days earlier, BJP leader and former Union Minister Kalraj Mishra had also said that PM Modi had never made the tall claim.

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Mishra alleged that the whole thing was an attempt by the Opposition to spread disinformation, in a bid to mislead the public.

“I want to clarify that we (BJP) never made any Rs 15 lakh promise,” Mishra said as per PTI.

This claim, accurate or not, has been in public discourse for over five years. It has resurfaced, yet again, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and continues to haunt the ruling dispensation.

The Opposition, going as far back as 2014, left no opportunity to use the claim as a point of attack against the BJP.

On 22 October 2014, ANI had quoted then Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken as saying: “Modiji... entire nation is waiting for you to fulfill your promise of bringing back black money and give Rs 15 lakh to all."

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, while addressing a rally in Delhi in January next year, had said: "Modi promised that he would get black money back and put Rs 15 lakh in your bank account. Did you get the money? But he is wearing Rs 15 lakh suit."

Although the BJP is distancing itself from it now, neither was a clarification on the “promise” issued by the BJP in the days leading up to the 2014 elections nor immediately after coming to power.

But did PM Modi promise that Rs 15 lakh will be credited in the bank accounts of all Indians?

Did Modi Promise Rs 15 Lakh?

While PM Modi did speak on the issue of black money and used the amount (Rs 15 Lakh) in an election rally in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it is easy to see – after establishing the context behind his words – that the remark was misconstrued as an electoral promise.

The first reference to the ‘Rs 15 lakh’ remark can be traced back to a campaign rally speech from November 2013.

It is clear that Modi’s remarks are more rhetoric than poll promise. Addressing a rally in Chhattisgarh, he had said:

“Should the black money come back? Should we take every rupee from the thieves and the robbers? The public has a right over this money or not? Shouldn’t this money be useful for the public? If we bring back the money of these thieves and robbers from foreign banks, then each and every poor of our country will get Rs 15-20 lakh for free. That’s how much money is there.”
Narendra Modi in 2013
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Can it Be True? A Numbers Check

On crunching the numbers mentioned in the claim – Rs 15 lakh for all Indians – we arrive at some staggering figures.

While the claim in public discourse says “Rs 15 lakh for all Indians”, the exact quote mentions “poor Indians”.

As per an expert committee set up under C Rangarajan, former chairperson of Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, close to 30 percent of the Indian population is in poverty. This is an increase from an earlier estimate of 21.9 percent. To be on the safer side, let us assume 25 percent as the baseline for this calculation.

So, this means one-fourth of India’s population (133.9 crore) is living in poverty and is hence, poor – around 33.48 crore people.

Rs 15 lakh for 33.48 crore Indians comes out to be:

So, had PM Modi’s estimates been accurate, the amount of money that would have been brought back to India – enough to give Rs 15 lakh to all poor Indians – would be Rs 50,22,00,00,00,00,000 or 502.2 trillion rupees ($7.24 trillion).

This monumental figure is almost impossible to comprehend without a comparison.

To aid the estimation, here is how PM Modi’s black money figure stacks up against some other numbers:

So, to sum up, in such a scenario, India would have retrieved a sum that is more than two-and-half times its GDP – enough to buy Apple Inc more than seven times.

How Much Black Money is Stashed Abroad?

Responding to a question by Congress’ Digvijaya Singh in Rajya Sabha in 2015, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had refused to give an official estimate of the black money stashed abroad, as per a Financial Express report.

He avoided spelling out the quantum of black money, saying: “There are various assessments which are made but in the absence of any particular authenticity with regard to those assessments, since statements made in this House are sacrosanct, I am not going to commit myself only to a speculative figure.”

While there are no official estimates, a book written by retired IIM (B) professor R Vaidyanathan, called ‘Black money and Tax Havens’, puts the figure of domestic black money at Rs 15 lakh crore and abroad at around Rs 65 lakh crore.

That is about $0.9 trillion or eight times less than PM Modi’s estimate.

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‘It Was a Jumla’

When party president Amit Shah was asked about the Rs 15 lakh remark, in a 2015 interview with ABP News, he dismissed the claim saying Modi’s words were nothing more than a poll gimmick or ‘jumla’.

“This (Modi’s remark) is a ‘jumla’. (The amount) Rs 15 lakh will not be credited to any account. They (Opposition) know it, you know it... the entire country knows this. The idea is to bring back black money... to help the poor,” Shah had said.

"No one will ever get the cash and they all know it. This is a way of delivering a speech…a metaphor,” he reiterated in the interview.

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