Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday slammed the Centre's move to monetise its assets across key sectors, saying the Modi dispensation is selling India's "crown jewels" built in the last 70 years and "gifting" them to their two-three businessmen "friends".
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi with former Union finance minister P Chidambaram, the former Congress chief said the Bharatiya Janata Party has claimed that nothing happened in India for 70 years, but now all assets created in all these years with public money are being sold out.
Gandhi alleged that the government's privatisation plan was aimed at creating monopolies in key sectors.
This will kill jobs, eliminate the informal sector, destroy small businesses and lead to "enslaving" of people, he alleged.
Gandhi said that the BJP government has clearly mishandled the economy that was built by the United Progressive Alliance government, and is now resorting to selling the country's assets as a "last resort" to generate some money.
"The prime minister (Narendra Modi) and the BJP had a slogan that the Congress party has done nothing in 70 years, and the finance minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) took a decision to sell all the assets built in these years. The prime minister is in the process of selling the crown jewels of this country," he told reporters.
"This entire privatisation, monetisation of assets is designed to create monopolies. The whole idea behind this exercise is to create monopoly for three or four people," he said, adding that everyone knows for whom this is being designed.
Gandhi said the central idea of this is what this country has built over the last 70 year is being "gifted" to their "businessmen friends".
Noting that the creation of monopolies in this country is "extremely dangerous", he said, "We have dealt earlier with the monopoly in India - it used to be called the East India Company. It enslaved this country and it was basically a monopoly that is what is happening now. We are heading into enslavement."
"This is not just a gifting of India's assets, this is going to ensure that the young people in India will not be able to find employment in the future," he said.
He cited the example of the farm laws and said these will destroy the informal sector in agriculture and will ensure monopolists enter.
The prime minister believes large monopolists can transform this country, but he does not realise that when large monopolies are created there are no jobs and this leads to social tension, anger and social explosion, Gandhi claimed.
He said that he had warned about COVID-19 bringing disaster but was ridiculed. Gandhi cautioned that this monetisation will lead to youths not getting jobs, and the entire industrial structure is controlled by two or three people.
"The prime minister is not working for the people of India. The prime minister is working for two or three monopolies," Gandhi alleged, urging the youth to fight this.
"Mr Modi is not the prime minister, he is an instrument; he is doing a particular job for these people," he said.
In a tweet in Hindi, the Congress leader said, "National 'Friendship' scheme - rail, road, airport, power, gas, petrol, mines, stadium, warehouse."
Gandhi said the government has clearly "mishandled" the economy and does not know what to do now.
"They have basically destroyed what the UPA built and now as a last resort they are selling everything that we helped create. This is a huge tragedy and it is something that every patriotic, nationalist person should oppose," he said.
On the government's claim that ownership of PSUs was not being given away, he said, "they don't have the courage to say that "we are giving and so, they have to say, we are leasing it".
The Congress leader also listed out the assets that this government planned to sell to its businessmen "friends".
He said the Congress is not against privatisation, but there has to be a strategy and no strategic asset should be sold.
Former Union minister Chidambaram said that raising funds cannot be the sole aim for selling assets built over the last 70 years.
"They are indulging in, what I would call a grand bargain sell, a grand closing down sale," he said, adding, "this is all hatched in secrecy in this wonderful organisation call NITI Aayog."
Chidambaram said that all stakeholders, including employees, worker unions, farmers, must be consulted before embarking on such large sale of assets.
"This exercise has been designed without any ex-ante criteria. The government should have spelt out, what its criteria is and what its goals were. You don't embark upon such a big exercise without first setting out the criteria and what your goals are," he said.
Chidambaram said one does not embark on such an exercise without any consultation with stakeholders.
Taking a swipe at the government, he said, "I know that there are many magicians in this country but I cannot imagine a greater magician in this government. I think this is a scandal."
Urging people to discuss and debate this monetisation plan, he said, "I think this is a dangerous slide and I wish the country wakes up to what these guys are up to."
Finance Minister Sitharaman on Monday unveiled an ambitious Rs 6 lakh crore National Monetisation Pipeline that included unlocking value by involving private companies across infrastructure sectors -- from passenger trains and railway stations to airports, roads and stadiums.
As many as 25 Airports Authority of India airports, including ones at Chennai, Bhopal, Varanasi and Vadodara, as well as 40 railway stations, 15 railway stadiums and colonies have been identified for private investments.