Countering the opposition’s criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s frequent foreign trips, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday took on the Congress and Rahul Gandhi by saying there is a “difference between performing national duty and disappearing for a jaunt”.
“My friends in the Congress party would realise when the Prime Minister of India goes abroad even for two days or three days, he performs a national duty. There is a difference between performing a national duty and disappearing for a jaunt. Therefore, you must realise the difference between the two,” Jaitley said, while replying to the discussion on the Finance Bill in the Lok Sabha, when Modi was in.
“The prime minister is sitting here. Yesterday, he was criticised that he stays abroad. Kam se kam kahan rehte hain, yeh toh humein pata rehta hai,” Jaitley said. Rahul’s whereabouts during his recent sabbatical are not yet publicly known.
Responding to this later, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the government “would know” Rahul’s whereabouts with its “the intelligence set-up” and added that wherever he goes, he does not publicise it.
Jaitley took another potshot at Rahul — without naming him — when he called the Modi government a “soojh boojh ki sarkar”. This remark was in an apparent reference to Rahul’s recent “suit boot ki sarkar” remark.
On the opposition remark that Modi had made 16 trips abroad, Jaitley said, “Yesterday, you found that the prime minister was out of the country. Today, you said that he is too much of a hands-on prime minister… he is not letting the ministers run their ministries and that he is running every ministry. So, please make up your mind about what your analysis of our prime minister is.”
He added, “Is India taller in the comity of nations today than it was a few years ago or not? I was surprised when I read in the last few days that compared to the developed world, whether it was Iraq or it was Yemen or it is Nepal today, it is India which is now being considered as a global leader even in areas where we could not manage our own affairs earlier: disaster management.”
Taking on the opposition over the land bill, the finance minister said it was the “farmer” and not the “corporate” at the heart of it. “The more you oppose it, the more you will oppose those living in rural areas,” he said. “We talk of creating an industrial corridor in villages, you say no land will be given for it… we talk about getting land for irrigation projects, you say land will not be given,” he added. “The more you delay this vikas-yatra which is for the poor you claim to be supporting, the more trouble you are likely to get him into,” Jaitley told the opposition benches.
In his response, Kharge began by applauding Jaitley’s skills as a lawyer but added that at times “even good lawyers get bad cases to plead”. “Aap galat prachar kar rahe hain ki Congress kisan ke paksh mein nahin hai,” Kharge said, reminding the government about the UPA’s land bill that had been passed in 2013 with the BJP on board.