Modi Rebuffs Opposition Criticism On Development; Targets Congress Policies

Prime Minister Narendra Modi rebuffs claims that the Union Budget does not favour the middle class.

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks in the Rajya Sabha, at the Parliament in New Delhi. (Source: PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks in the Rajya Sabha, at the Parliament in New Delhi. (Source: PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today accused the Congress of spending its time in power eulogising the Gandhi family at the cost of India’s development, dubbed non-performing assets as the UPA government’s “sin” and reeled out figures to rebuff opposition criticism on unemployment and other issues.

In his over 90-minute reply in the Lok Sabha to a debate on the motion of thanks for the President’s address, Modi alleged that lies were being spread to create a sense of disappointment among the middle class about his government.

Throughout Modi’s speech, Congress members were in the Well demanding that promises made to Andhra Pradesh following its division be fulfilled, questioning the Rafale deal and raised slogans targeting him.

Amid the din, an unfazed Prime Minister alleged Andhra Pradesh was suffering due to the “hasty decision” of the previous United Progressive Alliance government to bifurcate the state in 2014 for “political benefits.”

The Congress had similarly divided the country at the time of independence for its selfish interests, he said.

This is the same party that divided India. For decades, one party devoted all their energies in singing paeans to one family. The interests of the nation were over-looked just for the interests of one family.
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister

Claiming that his government has a vision for the country's development while the Congress worked with a “petty mind”, he said that the “biggest tunnel on land, the biggest tunnel under sea, the fastest train and the biggest gas pipeline” were being built by it.

"We have to create a new India. Let us all make our contribution to fulfil to create it," he said, adding that criticism was democracy’s strength, but not lies.

The President’s address does not belong to one party but underlines the government's direction, he said, and, in a dig, asked opposition leaders to read it again and “seek others’ help if they cannot understand its language.”

The Lok Sabha adopted the motion with a voice vote after opposition parties like the Congress, Trinamool Congress and the Left staged a walkout, saying Modi did not address issues raised by them like alleged corruption in the Rafale deal.

Modi claimed that the opposition has been attacking him as its leaders were “losing sleep” due to his fight against corruption and black money. Many of them are out on bail in corruption cases, he said and noted that four former chief ministers are behind bars.

“When the corrupt and middlemen are out of work, obviously the Congress will be unhappy... Nobody is going to be spared. Those who have robbed the country will have to return their loot to the common man,” he said amid thumping of desks by treasury benches and loud sloganeering by Congress members in the Well.

He said the opposition’s protest against his government’s use of Aadhaar was due to its scientific use to weed out corruption and give direct benefits to the people.

When his government took office in 2014, the chorus from the opposition was that he will scrap Aadhaar but when he made it more effective, they began opposing it, Modi said.

Countering criticism of the government over the issue of unemployment, he said opposition-ruled states of West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka have said that they have given employment to close to one crore people.

If the Centre is blamed for unemployment figures, then it should also be credited for employment data, he said.

“Don’t try to mislead the people,” he told referring to the opposition, adding that he had not cited figures of the BJP-ruled states but those where it was in power.

Seventy lakh new EPF accounts have been registered in the name of youths between 18-25 years of age, he said, citing measures like start-up India, skill India among others which have boosted the youth's aspirations.

“I can see the energy and enthusiasm in our youth. They want to do something on their own, they want to launch their own start-ups. Our government is giving wings to aspirations of India's middle class,” he said.

Targeting the Congress for its charge that his government was muzzling their voice and threatening democracy, he said it had no right to talk of democracy as he cited ‘coronation’ of Rahul Gandhi as its president, ‘insults’ meted out to a Dalit chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and a presidential candidate by former prime ministers Rajiv and Indira Gandhi respectively.

A Congress leader, he said, had likened Rahul's elevation to Aurangzeb replacing Shahjahan and the latter taking over from Jahangir as Mughal kings. “And you talk of democracy!” he said making a jibe. “Don’t give sermons on democracy to us. We know what you have done in the past,” he said.

He also hit out at the Congress president, who was in the House, for presenting the government “in a wrong light” on his overseas trips. “Don’t you feel ashamed,” he asked without him.

When Indian Army was involved in a stand-off with the Chinese army in Dokalam, the Congress leader was speaking to Chinese officials, he said.

He recalled that BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee had expressed his party’s reservations to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi privately during the Shimla agreement with Pakistan and did not harm India with any public criticism.

Reaching out to middle class, which opposition said has not benefited from the Union Budget, he said that lies were being spread to create a sense of disappointment among them.

He said his government was working on many fronts, like boosting infrastructure, education and health sectors, to make ‘ease of living’ better for them. It has got new benefits of over Rs 12,000 crore, he said.

"During much of the Congress rule after independence, there was little opposition presence, radio and then television were controlled by you and even judicial appointments were made by the government," he said.

But instead of focusing on the country's development, Modi said, "You spent the time singing paens to one family.

You worked to ensure that everything else is forgotten and only one family is remembered by people. If your direction and intentions were right, then the country would have developed many times more."

If Sardar Patel had been the country's first prime minister, then a part of Jammu and Kashmir would not be in Pakistan's control, he said, claiming that most units of the Congress had backed Patel over Jawaharlal Nehru, who eventually became prime minister.