NEW DELHI – The BJP and Congress on Monday sparred in the Rajya Sabha with Amit Shah saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put an end to the politics of “dynasty, caste and appeasement” and Ghulam Nabi Azad stating that they wanted the “old Bharat” of Mahatma Gandhi where Hindus and Muslims could give blood for each other.
On a day the House witnessed a lively debate on the President’s address, opposition parties, including Trinamool Congress and NCP, accused the government of failing to fulfill its promise of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.” BJP’s ally TDP said that the Centre was meting out step-motherly treatment to Andhra Pradesh.
BJP chief Amit Shah initiated the debate in the Upper House on the motion of thanks on the President’s address and in his maiden speech countered the Congress over its frequent slamming of the government over jobs and GST.
Shah pitched for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the assemblies and accused the Congress of “opposing” the triple talaq bill which he said Modi had brought to give rights, equality and social security to women.
He took on Congress President Rahul Gandhi over his description of the Goods and Services Tax as “Gabbar Singh Tax” and asked “is this (GST) dacoity?” He said taxes collected under GST go to fund programs for the poor besides soldiers.
Admitting that unemployment was a problem, he claimed it had been created during 55 years of Congress rule. He said BJP was finding a solution through programs such as Skill India, Start-up India, Stand-up India and Mudra loans.
He also slammed Congress leaders for their criticism of Modi over his remarks in an interview that people earning Rs 200 a day selling ‘pakodas’ (fritters) can be considered employed, saying: “Selling pakodas is not shameful but comparing it with begging was.”
“Today if a person is earning livelihood by selling pakodas, tomorrow his son would become a big industrialist. A tea vendor’s son can became the Prime Minister of this country,” he said.
Citing the BJP’s repeated victories in several assembly polls, he said that “people’s mandate” was the best way to judge the performance. On the Gujarat result, he took a veiled dig at Congress saying, “We can’t help it if some people see victory even in their defeat.”
Stating there were “three cancers” – dynastic politics, casteism and appeasement, he asserted that “we can proudly say today that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has uprooted all of them from the Indian political system”.
On the issue of simultaneous polls, which found a mention in the President’s address, Shah said that “it will save money and prevent the need of frequent elections”.
Calling for a concerted debate on the issue, he said it might seem the BJP has an advantage today but it can be the advantage of some other party tomorrow.
Terming the GST as the biggest reform ever undertaken, Shah said BJP had never opposed the reform during the UPA government’s tenure but its “opposition was to the manner in which it was being proposed to be implemented”.
Azad made a strong rebuttal of the issues raised by Shah and questioned the government’s vision of “New India”. “We do not want new Bharat, we want old Bharat where there is unity between all religions and Hindus and Muslims give blood for each other. This was old Bharat which you polarized to form government. We want a Bharat where there is no fear,” he said.
He accused the BJP of seeking to polarize people and divide the Muslim community.
“Criminalizing the act of triple talaq is very dangerous. Earlier you (BJP) divided Muslims in the name of Shia and Sunni, now you are trying to divide husband and wife. This community is already poor and backward and are living under fear after incidents of lynchings,” Azad said.
He countered the corruption allegations, saying they had emerged clean in the 2G case. “This government always says that it is a game changer… It is not a game changer but just a name changer. I have a long list of schemes whose names have been changed since 1985.”
Rejecting allegation of dynastic politics, Azad said: “No one from that family (Nehru-Gandhi family) has become the Prime Minister of India for more than 30 years. They have also not been a part of the government…
“Why are you so scared of some leaders that when they are not alive anymore, now you fear their children,” he said.
He also made a veiled reference to the sudden rise in the turnover of a company associated with Jay Shah, son of Amit Shah.