The Lok Sabha on Monday witnessed repeated clashes between the Opposition and the ruling sides on issues like farmers’ suicide, funds for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and formation of a Bharatiya Janata Party government in Goa.
As the House was discussing Supplementary Demands for Grants (General), K C Venugopal (Congress) charged the Modi government with providing little funds for the MGNREGA. He claimed the Rs-1,000-crore hike was negligible as compared to the benefits it was extending to the rural populace.
He said earlier Prime Minister Narendra Modi had dubbed the scheme as a ‘monument of Congress failure’ but had later praised it. Despite the praise, the scheme has seen only one per cent hike in allocation, he said.
In the course of his speech, Venugopal referred to suicides by farmers and said a group of farmers from Tamil Nadu were protesting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi with the ‘skulls’ of those who had committed suicide.
Senior All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai took exception to the remarks regarding skulls and said these were baseless.
He maintained that Tamil Nadu government was taking care of the issues of the farming community.
Tathagat Satpathy (Biju Janata Dal) too questioned the remarks of Venugopal, leading to a war of words between them.
Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge intervened, saying his party colleague was not referring to a particular state but highlighting the plight of farmers across India. He also questioned the demonetisation move and its effects on the gross domestic product.
Venugopal questioned the decision of the government to waive farmers’ loan in Uttar Pradesh and said such loans should be waived off in the entire country.
When some BJP members questioned Venugopal on farm loans, he said the Congress has all the rights to seek a nationwide waiver as the previous United Progressive Alliance government had done so.
Referring to the Prime Minister's statement that democracy needed to be strengthened, Venugopal alleged that the finance minister and the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar were involved in placing a BJP government in Goa despite lacking the numbers. He said the move was ‘unethical’.
His remarks were countered by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar who said Venugopal should avoid speaking on ‘irrelevant things’ and should give a separate notice on the issue so that the House can discuss it.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan made it clear that she has expunged the remarks by Venugopal on Goa government formation.
Participating in the debate, Kirit Somaiya (BJP) said while the Congress made an issue out of demonetisation, it was itself ‘devalued’ in Uttar Pradesh polls and it has now become difficult to find the party in the state.
He said the recent assembly polls have shown ‘whose GDP has gone down’, adding the GDP of Modi and BJP has gone up.
Listing the government's achievements in the economy, Somaiya quoted a latest report by PricewaterhouseCoopers which he said placed India as the third largest economy with a total volume of $19.51 trillion (Rs 124 lakh crore).
He said the report placed Chinese economy at the top with $38 trillion (Rs 248 lakh crore), while the United States occupied the second place at $23.47 (Rs 150 lakh crore).
“Our government has done so much. Nostradamus had predicted that a leader from the East will emerge strongly and take his country to a new high. That leader is Narendra Modi,” said the BJP MP from Maharashtra.
Slamming the Opposition for opposing demonetisation, Somaiya said they have been facing the anger of the people for putting hurdles in India’s development.
“The economy is not being ruined, the country is not being ruined. But those creating bottlenecks for Modiji in taking forward the country are being ruined,” he said.
Referring to Congress' 'Garibi Hatao' slogan in 1971, he wondered why the party could not rid the country of poverty in the last over 40 years.
“They had given the Garibi Hatao slogan in 1971 and again talked about it 2014. Why the party could not remove poverty in 43 years? You see what we have done in last 33 months,” Somaiya said.
AIADMK MP G Hari complimented the government for advancing the presentation of the budget and merging of the railway budget with the general budget.
He also sought adequate funds for providing relief to those in Tamil Nadu hit by cyclone Vardah last year as well as to deal with drought in various parts of the state this year.
The AIADMK MP also demanded a Rs 200 crore package for celebration of M G Ramachandran’s birth centenary.
IMAGE: Congress MP K C Venugopal in Lok Sabha on Monday. Photograph: PTI Photo