Opposition on Monday picked holes in various government decisions like demonetisation and surgical strikes as well as allocation of funds for MNREGA, agriculture sector and Scheduled Castes, saying it has failed on all fronts despite which it is trying to "fool" the people.
Participating in a debate on Motion of Thanks to the President's Address in the Lok Sabha, Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge repeatedly targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was present and said he should apologise to the nation for the demonetisation decision which caused a "lot of troubles" to all sections of the people.
The government, on the other hand, asserted that the schemes and programmes initiated by it had been a success. Union minister Mahesh Sharma, who initiated the debate, said that the entire nation had stood with Modi on the "bold" decision aimed at curbing black money, ending corruption and choking funds to terrorism.
Kharge, while peppering his 90-minute speech with witty digs at the prime minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party, said that the government was misleading the countrymen by claiming that the nation is progressing fast.
"You can fool some of the people for some time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time," he said quoting Abraham Lincoln and added, "There is failure on all fronts. So what are you talking about?"
Referring to the decisions on demonetisation, digitalisation and surgical strikes and programmes for farmers, backward castes, employment creation, Swacch Bharat and 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao', Kharge asked, "Is the government running properly? Or is just a jumla (slogan)?"
Taking a dig at Modi, he said, "woh bhashan mein tez hain, bolne mein tez hain, par bhashan se pet nahi bharta (he is great in delivering speeches but speeches do not feed people)."
Talking about demonetisation, Kharge said, "All the economists have said the decision to ban notes was bad. What steps did the government take before rolling out the plan?"
Kharge, who insisted that his party was willing to have a debate on demonetisation even during the last winter session of Parliament which was a washout, said the decision to scrap old notes had hit all sections, particularly farmers and the unorganised sector.
He said that 125 people lost their lives in the aftermath of this decision.
"The prime minister did not even say anything on this. The least he should have done was to introduce a resolution to condole the deaths or should have said that he wants to apologise to the people due to the hardships caused to them," Kharge said in his poetry laden speech, which lasted for nearly one-and-half hour.
Kharge claimed that the decision to declare old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 as null and void was taken by the prime minister alone, without taking into confidence even taking his cabinet, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian.
The Congress leader also claimed that the victims of Kanpur railway accident, which claimed lives of two and left over 40 injured in December last year, were paid in the form of old notes.
"This government did not take anybody into confidence. That is why this failed," he said.
"It all happened in 24 hours -- RBI meeting, Cabinet meeting and the prime minister's announcement," he said, referring to the demonetisation decision of November 8 last year.
"At night (of November 8), the prime minister declared that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 are just a piece of paper which has no value. There was panic among people. Imagine what message it would have sent to the people and foreign countries," he said.
He suggested that the demonetisation decision was thrust upon the RBI, saying the central bank did what it was told by the government.
He claimed that only two of 10 directors of the RBI were present at a meeting which decided in favour of demonetisation.
At this, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar raised a point of order.
He said that Kharge had made "baseless allegations" as he has not referred to any documents and not substantiated anything.
"He (Kharge) was allowed to speak on all those things. Everything should be expunged. He should speak with authenticated documents and not mislead the House," he said.
Kharge responded by quipping while addressing Speaker Sumitra Mahajan: "Unka kaam hi mislead karna hai. Mai udhar dekhta bhi nahi. Unko dekhna paap hai, unko sunna paap hai. Sirf apko dekhna theek hai (It is their task to mislead. I do even look at them. It is a sin to look at them or listen to them. Only looking at you is fine)."
Questioning what the government had achieved by abruptly removing 86.5 per cent of currency in circulation, Kharge said that economists have opined that there were better ways to end black money.
"In no other country, there would be a situation where you can't access your own money in banks.... People are still facing trouble. Farmers, small traders, construction workers, all are affected," the Congress leader said.
He said that the government should have made proper preparations before taking the demonetisation decision by making the replacement currency available.
"You (government) did it without any preparation. The economic situation has been affected and growth has been hurt. It is not me who is saying so but big economists are saying so," he said.
He referred to the government's contention that demonetisation was to curb black money, fake currency, corruption and terror funding.
"Did black money end? Did fake currency come out?... I want to ask how much black money has been unearthed.
He also alleged that the note-ban decision was "leaked" to people and industrialists close to the government and BJP leaders bought vast tracts of land before the decision was announced.
Kharge said that the government had taken the demonetisation decision to ensure that people forget the prime minister's unfulfilled promise of putting Rs 15 lakh in each account if all black money stashed abroad was retrieved.
"That too was a slogan... They want people to forget that lie. That is why demonetisation was undertaken and digital economy is being pushed," the Congress leader said.
He asked the government to disclose the names of black money holders.
At this, some BJP members said there were Congress leaders among them.
Kharge then said action should be taken against anyone having black money, even if it includes Congressmen.
"But you (BJP) have more people. You bought land, property in various states, Bihar, Rajasthan, all states, before November 8. They had hint from the government and hence their people purchased," he said.
Referring to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's remarks on demonetisation in his Budget speech, Kharge said, "I laughed... He (Jaitley) said there were no riots after demonetisation. Does it mean you wanted riots? People of this country are tolerant. People of this country have such tolerance that they have suffered subjugation for 1000 years quietly. If you want riots, then people will show you some time."
With regard to the prime minister's promise that troubles due to demonetisation will end in 50 days, he said now 85 days have passed but people still continue to face problems.
On the push for digital economy, he said that the government should have considered how many people in the country are literate. "What will you achieve by harassing 90 per cent people," he said, adding "certain things, you should see practically. Some things look good only in theory."
Tweaking a Hindi song, he said, "Vaade pe tere maara gaya aam aadmi seedha saadha (On your promise, common man is facing problems)".
He also referred to the prime minister's remarks at a rally in Goa after demonetisation where he said his life was under threat.
"I got worried that if my prime minister, leader of this House is facing life threat, then what will happen to me? He has so much security, so many people around him, 330 MPs, RSS, etc. and still if this is his situation, then what would happen to me since I raise issues in Parliament," Kharge said.
"If you (PM) are not safe, then the country is not safe. You should not talk like that. If a PM talks of weakness, it sends a wrong message to the world. For votes, you should not speak like that," the Congress leader said.
On surgical strikes, Kharge said these have happened in the past as well and not for the first time during the NDA rule as claimed by the government.
On those questioning surgical strikes being dubbed as anti-national, he said, "You have not taken the contract of patriotism."
Taking a jibe at Modi, Kharge said he had described Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar as one of his "navratnas" after the surgical strike.
"So, he (Parrikar) is Raja Man Singh, while Arun Jaitley is Raja Todarmal like Akbar's navratnas? But who are the other seven ratnas? We would want to know," Kharge said.
The surgical strike was carried out by the Indian army across the Line of Control after the Uri attack in September last year.
"Surgical strikes did not happen for the first time. These have happened in the past, it will happen in future too till our nation is troubled," Kharge said.
"You take credit for it (but) it was the soldiers who staked their lives," the Congress leader said and questioned why the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government did not address the situation in that state to ensure there were no terror attacks there.
On MNREGA, Kharge said while the government claimed that funds allocated this financial year are the highest, the figures tell a different tale.
He said the MNREGA allocation was 2.15 per cent in 2012-13 of the total budget, 2.12 per cent in 2013-14, 1.98 per cent in 2014-15, 2.09 per cent in 2015-16, 2.36 per cent in 2016-17.
However, the allocation was 2.24 per cent in 2017-18 when it should have been at least 90,000 crore proportionate to the total volume of the overall Budget.
He said even the mandays under the NDA government havenot increased and average employment per household was 33 days against 100 days.
The PM had said earlier that MNREGA was a "monumental failure" of Congress but the same came handy when there was drought in several parts of the country last year, he said.
Hitting out at the government over the merger of the railway budget and putting an end to a 92 year-old tradition, he said it has ended the autonomy of the railways.
"This is a move to weaken the railways. You don't cut your head if you have a headache, chop off your nose if you are sneezing. Instead you treat it.
"They say that the railways have to pay dividend to the finance ministry. Instead of putting an end to the railway budget, they should have funded railways the way give money for national highways.
"Now the railways have before Jaitley and finance ministry officials for funds," Kharge said.
He also questioned the progress on the bullet trains project, saying even land has not been acquired even after two-and-half years after announcement of the project.
Trying to pick holes in the functioning of the railways, Kharge said there were 62 derailments in 2016, a rise by over 70 per cent. "How efficiently you manage the railways," he said, taking a jibe at the government.
Kharge said the government was also "misleading" the country by claiming that the hike in the monetary allocation for Schedule Castes has been doubled.
In 2012-13 when the UPA was in power, the allocation for the SC Sub Plan was 2.35 per cent, followed by 2.23 per cent in 2013-14, the Congress leader said, adding it became 1.81 per cent in 2014-15 when the NDA came to power and subsequently 1.71 per cent in 2015-16, 2.03 per cent in 2016-17 and 2.44 per cent in 2017-18.
Kharge said that Rs 3 lakh crore should have been allocated for the project. "Where has it doubled? You are misleading the people."
Kharge said, while the government plans to build 11.11 crore toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the flagship programme of the NDA, only 2.7 crore units have been built. "How will you built 9 crore units in two years?"
While the government was running 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' programme, the enrolment of girls during the UPA was 48.4 per cent which has declined to 48.2 during the NDA regime.
He also attacked the PM over employment creation and said while he had promised 2 crore jobs every year, only 1.5 lakh jobs had been created.
Kharge, while referring to the Stand Up India programme, gave an example of Black Americans in the context of their skill training. He used a particular term for them and was cautioned by TMC MP Saugata Roy against using it.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, sitting next to him, too promptly told Kharge: "It is African Americans", following which Kharge said he was retracting the word used by him.
Since he had spoken for too long, Kharge said he had much more to speak about "scams" in BJP-ruled states like GSPC in Gujarat and Vyapam in Madhya Pradesh and PDS scam in Chhattisgarh. "I am sparing you from this," he told the treasury benches.
Earlier, Mahesh Sharma, Minister for Tourism and Culture, hailed the demonetisation decision and said the Opposition chose to be with the corrupt people by objecting to it.
He said that Modi was conscious about the upcoming assembly polls in five states when he decided on demonetisation but despite that he took this "bold and historic" step to curb the menace of black money and corruption.
He also said people raised questions that demonetisation was not a planned step but how "we pumped new currency within 24 hours. All are standing with the prime minister on this decision".
With regard to the Budget announcement of limiting cash donations for political funding, the minister said parties must be facing problems due to the Budget announcement regarding cash limit in political funding.
"Abhi toh jeb fati hai, ab kurta bhi fatne wala hai (Now pocket has been torn, kurta is also going to be torn)," he said indicating there is more to come.
Claiming that India was now attracting huge FDI, he said the government has taken several measures for the benefit of farmers such as Fasal Bima Yoyna and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana.
Elaborating on the "pro-people measures" taken by the government, Sharma said the Opposition criticism that this government worked only for big business was wrong as all steps taken were aimed at the development of the poor, farmers and youth.
The government provided gas connections to 1.5 crore women in families living Below Poverty Line and the target is to provide gas connections to five crore more women, Sharma said, adding "we have not discriminated" in terms of religion and caste.
Sharma said the tourism sector grew at a rate of 15.6 per cent, with the government extending e-visa facilities to 161 countries, and even during demonetisation, the sector recorded healthy growth, both in terms of value and volume of tourists.
While urging the Opposition not to oppose everything that the government does, BJP member Virendra Singh, who seconded the motion, said demonetisation has benefited people, including farmers.
Attacking the Opposition on the allegations that demonetisation has impacted farmers, he said there was increase in the acreage of pulses and other food grains. "If farmers were impacted, how did the acreage increase?"
Trinamool member Saugata Roy described the President's address as "half truth" and "cruel" and said it did not mention a word about 150 people who died while standing in queue following demonetisation.
Demonetisation is "the most senseless, cruel and heartless step taken by any government in the past 70 years," he said, adding it is common knowledge that only 6 per cent of the black money is kept in cash while the rest in property, gold and other assets.
"Why you have to kill the whole economy to deal with black money," he questioned.
Roy said as much as Rs 20,000 crore was being spend on printing of the new currently notes following demonetisation decision which is "anti-people and anti-nation."
Even the Reserve Bank, he said, could not tell how much black money had come into the system after demonetisation and when the normalcy would be restored.
He also wondered why the government allowed persons like liquor baron Vijay Mallya and erstwhile cricket czar Lalit Modi to flee the country despite court cases.
Contending that President's address did not talk about the real issues facing the nation, he said, there was no word on the people who died in rail accidents in the recent past.
Roy also accused the Centre of misusing the Central CBI for arresting senior Trinamool leaders including Sudip Bandopadhyay, leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, on trumped-up charges.
"We will fight...fight on beaches, till this (NDA) government is thrown out. We will fight lock, stock and barrel," he said.
Congratulating the Prime Minister on demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, Thota Narasimham (TDP) said the move would have long-term benefits.
He was of the view that the National Civil Aviation Policy mentioned in the President's address will give a major boost to air connectivity in the smaller cities and towns.
Stating that the state of Telangana was facing revenue deficit, he requested the Centre to compensate for the same.
Mohammed Salim (CPI-M) was of the view that though the government was at half-way-mark, there was no hope of "ache din" (good days).
Demonetisation, he said, has become the source of corruption.
He also urged upon the government to provide employment to the unemployed youth. "You should provide employment. You have kept the issue on the back-burner," he stated.
He also expressed concerns that the trafficking of women and children was increasing with the passage of time.
Stating that the newly carved out state of Telangana was facing injustice, Jeethendra Reddy (TRS) said till today "the state has not been provided with AIIMS, IIM...."
He also said the proposed visit of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao along with an all-party delegation to New Delhi to request the Prime Minister to take steps for categorisation of SCs in the state has been postponed.
He alleged that it was postponed due to interference by Telangana State BJP.
To this, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who hails from the state, said "we have not interfered. Rather we were the part of delegation."
Terming President's address as an attempt again to mislead people of the country, NCP MP Tariq Anwar said it does not present a roadmap for development work for the future.
"The government is not serious about resolving the problem of people, farmers, employment of youth and poor," he said.
The government has annoucned policies like doubling farmer income by 2022, housing for all by 2022 but the term of this House will end in 2019, he said, adding, Prime Minister will have no obligation to answer whether those goals have met or not after 2019.
Farmers have committing suicide and this government is showing dream of doubling their income by 2022, he said.
This government claims to be pro-farmer, then what is stopping them from announcing debt waiver scheme for them, he said, adding, poor has suffered most during the demonetisation period.
Describing demonetisation as surgical strike on poor, RJD member Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav said the missile of note ban fell on the poor and downtrodden but not on rich who were hoarding black money.
"Let me remind you that you will not be forgiven for this and in 2019 you will be voted out," he said.
As far as cashless transaction is concerned, Yadav said, it is entirely baseless and hopeless decision, he said, adding, it cannot happen when the interent infrastructure is poor.
Bhagwant Mann (AAP) said demonetisation has resulted in hardships for farmer and they are unable to get proper price for their produce due to shortage of cash in the market.
Jose K Mani of Kerala Congress (M) demanded that government should bring back the practice of presenting the Rail Budget separately.
On the issue of priest abduction at Yemen, he said government is not doing much to free Father Tom Uzhunnalil and alleged that Home Minister is not even aware of the issue.
With regard to disinvestment, he said, the government should desist from selling profit making PSUs.
Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) said demonetisation has compromised with the Article 300 (A) of Constitution which says that no person would be deprived of property.
But as a result of note-ban banks have restricted withdrawal of your own money to only Rs 24,000 per week, he said.
Besides, he said, it has taken a toll on the economy and resulted in slowdown in many sectors including automobiles.
He also charged government of tinkering with the federal structure of the country.
"This is not in the spirit of India...the present PM is working in autocratic fashion," he said.
'Digital India' is good slogan but it does not work on the ground, he said.
"First ask your 'call drop minister' to put in place proper infrastructure then Digital India will work," he said.
Making apparent reference to the Prime Minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress) said "around the world in two and half years."
But this government has failed in having a robust foreign policy, he said, adding, nothing has been done with regard to strengthening ties with neighbouring countries.
Relations with neighbouring countries have hit a low under this government, he said.
Foreign Portfolio Investors have withdrawn Rs 80,000 crore in the last 3 months, he said.
When the UP election comes, then only BJP raises question of Ram Mandir and triple talaq, he said, adding, "hum Mandir wahi baneyege par tariq nahi batayenge."