It was a case of tit for tat in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman returned former Finance minister P Chidambaram’s “avocado” jibe with her own version of “classes and masses”.
As Chidambaram looked on with a smile, Sitharaman said while replying to the discussion on the Budget: “When all of us were running here and there to make onions available, who was it that had avocado on his mind? Not the masses certainly.”
It was a reference to Chidambaram’s taunt some time back after Sitharaman, amid skyrocketing prices of onion, had told the Lok Sabha that she comes from a family where onions don’t mean much. Chidambaram had asked, “Does she eat avocados?”
The issue of jobs, reduction in allocation to the rural employment guarantee programme and lack of reliable government data was a recurring theme of the Opposition’s onslaught against the government as the discussion on Budget continued for the second day in the Upper House.
Congress MP Syed Nasir Husain said: “The world knows who peddles fake data and even says untruths in the House. We had said garibi hatao (remove poverty); you seem to be saying garibon ko hatao (remove the poor). Here our MoS (Finance, Anurag Thakur) is sitting and smiling, but sometime ago he was egging people on to shoot. It resulted in two armed men actually shooting (at Jamia Millia Islamia and Shaheen Bagh).”
Taking on the government’s ‘Stand Up India’ initiative, aimed at promoting entrepreneurship, Husain said, “It is now darao dhamkao (threaten) India and garibon ko satao (frustrate the poor) India. These are all diversionary tactics to use world recession as an excuse to cut funds for the poor, the farmers, and the SCs and STs.”
Thakur, whose controversial “goli maro…” remarks during the Delhi Assembly election campaign phase had earned him the Election Commission’s ire, was seen smiling.
Even though Sitharaman entered the House just minutes before her own reply, Thakur was not seen taking notes, as is normally the case during such debates. Several other Cabinet ministers were present but none seemed to be taking note of the suggestions from different speakers.
Calling the Opposition’s criticism “fake propaganda for political benefit”, BJP member G V L Narasimha Rao slammed the narrative that India’s unemployment is currently at a 45-year high. “These are two different surveys, different methodologies that cannot be compared. The truth is 7 million people are now entering the workforce every year. At 1.73 million (jobs created) between 2009 and 2011, it was the lowest in several decades under the UPA — millions of women went out of jobs (as a result). We have engendered — brought in women — into the workforce while you endangered their economic status. Don’t spread fake news, don’t suffer from selective amnesia,” Rao said.
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