The former prime minister also criticised the current government for ‘messing up’ the economy.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday launched an all-out attack on the Modi government, saying that while it had “messed up” the economy, it was spouting “jumla” (rhetoric) with pipe dreams about generating 2 crore jobs and doubling farm incomes.
Addressing the 84th Congress plenary session, he also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of having “mismanaged” the dispute in Jammu and Kashmir and said the government’s talk of fighting two-and-a-half wars was “yet another hollow promise”.
From foreign policy and defence to the economy, the former prime minister spoke on a range of issues, and was accorded a thunderous applause and a standing ovation by party leaders.
Singh lamented that only about 1.6 per cent of the country’s GDP was spent on defence expenditure, which, he said, could not meet the challenges that the security apparatus posed.
He also alleged that there were many issues on the foreign policy front that had been poorly handled by the Modi government.
“We also must recognise that the Modi government has mismanaged the Jammu and Kashmir problem as never before,” he said.
He said the two wings of the government in the state were working against each other and the atmosphere was “deteriorating day in and day out”.
“That is obvious from the fact that our borders are not secure, whether it is cross-border terrorism or internal terrorism, internal insurgency. There are today issues which are a source of great worry to all our citizens,” he said.
The Modi government, he said, possibly feels that these issues will get sorted out on their own.
“That’s not going to happen,” he added.
Noting that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, he said the country needed to recognise the state’s special problems and “we must deal with those problems with all seriousness”.
Highlighting issues that had come up between India and its neighbours under the Modi dispensation, the former prime minister said it was the task of the country to create pathways for an “environment of support, friendship and moving ahead together”.
The Congress moved in that direction, he said, whether it was with Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, or countries such as China.
“These problems are to be sorted out peacefully and not in an atmosphere of hostility and shouting at each other,” he said.
On Pakistan, Singh said India must recognise it as a neighbour but expressed concern over Islamabad’s support to cross-border terrorism.
“That certainly is not acceptable to us. We must, therefore, warn Pakistan that this is a path which is mutually destructive of peace and prosperity in the sub-continent,” he said.
“It is as much in the interest of Pakistan as in the interest of India that our two countries must sort out all problems sitting together peacefully and give up this path of support of terrorist elements emanating from across the border,” he noted.
On the economy, which he claimed grew by 7.8 per cent under the United Progressive Alliance regime led by him, Singh rued that at a time the world economy had grown from 2.8 per cent to 3.8 per cent from 2014 to 2018, the Indian economy had “decoupled itself” from the world economy.
Quoting the Economic Survey, the former prime minister said it brings out the inadequacies of the BJP government’s approach to solving social and economic problems.
Those were the challenges that the Congress had to take up again, he stressed.
“The BJP government has messed up the economy. When Modi ji was campaigning he made lots of tall promises. Those promises have not been fulfilled,” he said.
Singh said the BJP claimed in 2014 that if it came to power it would provide 2 crore jobs.
“But we have not seen even two lakh jobs,” he said.
The “ill-thought and ill-conceived” demonetisation and “hastily put forward” legislation for GST had destroyed many jobs and created problems for the small and medium industry and the informal sector, both in terms of production and providing jobs, he said.
He also pointed out that Modi had talked of doubling farmers’ incomes in six years.
“If you have to double farmers’ incomes in six years’ time, you need a growth rate of 12 per cent per annum as the minimum. And that is unthinkable,” he said.
“Therefore, it is one of those statements ... merely a jumla-type statement, which is not likely to be achieved,” he said.
“Modi ji himself recognises that these are tall promises. Two crore jobs per annum is one of those promises which is again a pipe dream mooted by the Modi government,” he said.
Recollecting the history of the Congress, the former prime minister said it was the party that “made India what it is today, that led the freedom struggle and which guided India in the path of development after it became free”.
At a time when the Congress is seeking to get back to power and to create alliances with like-minded parties to oust the BJP in 2019, the former prime minister said the Congress party was once again being “invited and challenged to play a similar role”.
He also exuded confidence that the party would play the same “historic role” in the years to come under Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s leadership and former party chief Sonia Gandhi’s guidance, to carry forward the “process of sustained growth, development and social justice of the people of India”.