The Congress on Thursday attacked the Modi government on its eighth anniversary, alleging the period has been marked by misery and misgovernance with high inflation, low employment and communal polarisation being the hallmark.
The Bharatiya Janata Party hit back, calling the Congress a "torn old party" moving towards a stage where its relevance and necessity will be completely lost.
Addressing a joint press conference New Delhi, Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala and Ajay Maken claimed the BJP government has broken all records of "hoodwinking" its own people with fake 'jumlas' and slogans during its eight years of rule.
They alleged that the promise of "achche din" made to people has only turned out to be "achche din" for the BJP and a select group of crony capitalists and industrialists whose wealth has increased manifold.
Asked about the row over Rahul Gandhi's visit to the UK, Surjewala asserted that FCRA permission has been taken by him for his visit and that he does not require political clearances from the government.
The government had claimed that every MP holding a diplomatic passport is required to apply for prior political clearance directly to the Ministry of External Affairs and ensure that before proceeding abroad the requisite political clearance is obtained.
The Congress also released a booklet in Hindi "8 saal, 8 chhal, BJP sarkar viphal" (8 years, 8 deceits, BJP government failed) to highlight what it called the "failures" of the BJP government on various fronts.
Reacting sharply to the Congress' criticism of the government, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said the grand old party is speaking the language acquired by its middle aged leader on a visit abroad, apparently targeting Rahul Gandhi.
"The Congress' middle-aged perpetual youth leader always gets enlightened whenever he goes abroad and suddenly the knowledge which he acquires showers in the party when they start speaking in India," Trivedi told a press conference at the BJP headquarters here.
The former Congress president has been in the line of BJP fire after his meeting with British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, known for his anti-India views, in London.
Also, during the London visit, Gandhi, while addressing an event on 'India at 75' at Cambridge University on Monday evening, alleged that there is a "systematic attack" on the institutions that allow India to speak and as the conversation is being stamped out, the "deep state" is entering those spaces and redefining the way that conversation is happening in the country.
At another 'Ideas for India' event in London, Gandhi had said on Saturday the "deep state" in India is "chewing and eating" the Indian state much like in Pakistan, as he launched a frontal attack on the Modi government.
The ruling BJP had hit back at Gandhi and branded him a "part-time, immature, unsuccessful leader" who betrayed the country with his remarks made on foreign soil.
"The Congress is a torn old party. It is progressively moving towards a stage where its relevance and necessity is completely lost," Trivedi told reporters, while engaging in a wordplay with the grand old party moniker used for the Congress.
Hailing the Modi government's economic policies, the BJP spokesperson said despite the challenging economic conditions prevailing across the world "our growth rate is more than the inflation rate. Even today India's growth rate is 8.5 per cent and inflation rate is 7.5 per cent." The inflation in India's neighbouring countries and in Europe is in double digits, Trivedi added.
At the Congress's press conference, Maken dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a debate with facts to counter the claims of "failures" made by the main opposition party.
He should first debate with us and can later debate with our leader Rahul Gandhi, he said.
Maken claimed that one after another, BJP's disastrous policies have contributed to the fall of the Indian economy.
What was once the fastest growing economy, is now in turmoil thanks to the BJP's 8 years of misgovernance, he alleged, adding that inflation is touching an all-time high and so are unemployment levels.
Asked why the claims made by the Congress were not bearing any fruit during elections, as the BJP continued to win them, Maken said the Congress party is raising issues like a strong and alert opposition and that election results and the opposition's activeness are two different things.
"We are fulfilling our responsibilities, and as far as better performance in elections is concerned, we have taken some decisions at the party's Chintan Shivir in Udaipur and expect better results in the future. You will see better functioning of the Congress in the coming times, but highlighting the failures of the government is very important," he said.
Surjewala said the eight years of BJP rule has seen continuous threats to the sovereignty and security of the country, with China continuing to infiltrate the borders, and the prime minister remaining silent.
"What happened to the PM's 56'' chest and 'laal ankh' (red eyes)," he asked, referring to Modi's remark made ahead of the 2014 elections that one needs to have a 56-inch chest to take on China.
Surjewala said the slogans given by the BJP ahead of 2014 polls are now being assessed by the people of the country as all have proved wrong.
He cited several such slogans given by Modi to attack the previous UPA government on issues of price rise, unemployment, economy, deteriorating value of the rupee and on India's sovereignty and integrity, and said "all those slogans, promises and 'jumlas' highlight the failures of the Modi government".
Citing the slogan "achche din aane wale hain", he asked "whose 'achche din' have come" and claimed good days have arrived only for the BJP and crony capitalist friends of Modi whose wealth has multiplied at a time when the average income of every Indian has gone down during the Covid times.
Surjewala also claimed that 84 per cent Indians have seen reduced incomes and 12 crore people have lost their jobs, even as 60 lakh MSMEs have shut shop, with unemployment touching a 45-year record. But two-three industrialists have seen their incomes rise by Rs 1,000 crore every day and 142 super-rich made gains of Rs 30 lakh crore in the last one year during Covid.
"While high prices are upsetting the budgets of common people on the one hand, on the other communal fires are flaring and the BJP is trying to benefit politically from it," he alleged.
The Congress leader also highlighted the atrocities and crimes against women under the BJP rule.
He accused the government of depriving MGNREGA workers of wages, especially weaker sections of the society including the SCs/STs/OBCs and minorities for months, and said by doing so they are actually defeating the whole purpose of MGNREGA.
Maken also accused the BJP of garnering votes in the name of bravery of soldiers but not even recognising their services by giving them one rank, one pension as promised by the previous UPA government.
Accusing the BJP of spreading hatred in society through communal polarisation, he alleged that 10,000 incidents of communal clashes took place during the last eight years of the Modi government. Citing government data, he claimed, during 2016 to 2020 there have been 3,400 communal clashes.
The two leaders said while there is an attack on national security and territorial integrity of India by China, which continues to occupy Indian territory, Modi and his government are silent.
They also claimed there has been an increase in Naxal attacks in the country, even as large consignment of drugs are being smuggled in with impunity at privately managed ports, apparently referring to seizure of enormous quantities of drugs at the Mundra port.