Countering the Congress’s criticism, BJP president Amit Shah, in his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, said it was better to sell pakodas than remain unemployed. Shah had a message for his party’s allies too, as he pointed out that the BJP could have formed the government on its own after the “historic” mandate in 2014. This comes at a time when the BJP has been facing criticism from some of its allies.
Initiating the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, Shah said: “It is better for youth to earn a living selling pakodas instead of being unemployed. Making pakodas is not shameful, what is shameful is comparing such a person with a beggar.”
He pointed out that a “chaiwala’s (tea-seller) son has become the Prime Minister today.”
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that selling pakodas too was a form of employment. Congress leader P Chidambaram had countered that by that logic, even begging was a job.
Blaming the Congress for unemployment, Shah said it took a long time to come out of the “hole” that it had left the country in, but schemes like the Jan Dhan Yojana, Skill India, Swachh Bharat and Ujjwala Yojana had brought relief.
He said Rs 73,000 crore has been deposited in 31 crore Jan Dhan accounts, over 3 crore poor women have got gas connections, and the price of stents has been brought down. The National Health Protection Scheme, providing Rs 5 lakh health cover to 10 crore families, would now be implemented in the country as “NamoHealth”, he said.
“Many have come to power on the slogan of garibi hatao, but it is the BJP government led by Narendra Modi that has really worked along those principles,” he said.
Addressing the BJP’s allies, Shah said: “We went to the elections as an alliance. That is why, despite getting a majority on our own, we included them (allies) in the NDA government. NDA allies, recognising our sentiments, have helped take the journey of this government forward.”
In his almost 90-minute speech, Shah termed GST as a big reform which “realised the dream of one country, one tax”. Referring to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s remark that GST was Gabbar Singh Tax, Shah said Gabbar Singh was a dacoit in the film Sholay. “Is a dacoity taking place here? Is legally claiming taxes from people dacoity? Is this the understanding of people? And where does this Gabbar Singh Tax/ GST go? It goes in the bank account of a jawan for giving One Rank, One Pension. It goes in the bank account of widows of martyrs. It goes towards giving poor women (clean cooking fuel) Ujjwala Yojana,” he said.
He denied that the BJP had earlier opposed GST. “It is said that the BJP (state) governments opposed GST when the Congress government was in power. This is not true. The BJP never opposed GST but only opposed its ways,” said Shah. The problem then, he said, was the states’ lack of trust in the UPA government. On the other hand, he said, the BJP got everyone on board and sanctioned Rs 37,000 crore to cover the losses of states.
While admitting teething problems in implementation of GST, he said the government was sensitive and over 30 procedural changes were effected through the GST Council meetings. He dared the Opposition to make public the minutes of the GST Council meetings, saying it was speaking a different language in Parliament while its state ministers were supporting it.
“One language at the GST Council meeting, another in Parliament, and a different language at the meetings. What kind of the politics is this? Shall we publish the minutes of the GST Council meetings and make them public,” Shah asked.
He also pitched for simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha elections. “This government has a principle. We do not take decisions that people like. We have seen governments which took decisions for vote bank (politics) to suit people’s likes, but this government takes decisions that are good for the people, not decisions that they may like,” said Shah.
Shah appealed to the Congress to support the Bill to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), saying there was no politics involved. Referring to the Triple Talaq legislation, Shah said Muslim women were battling for their rights in courts for years. “When the Prime Minister brought a legislation to protect the rights of Muslim women, the Bill was stalled in the Rajya Sabha,” he said. When the Congress protested at the use of the word ‘stalled’ he said, “we can bring the Bill tomorrow again. Why don’t you pass it then?”
Speaking after Shah, BJP MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said: “Most of the members on the other benches, unfortunately, are indulging in crass politics of doubt… we are working with politics of determination. This is a struggle of doubt versus determination, ridicule versus resoluteness, fragmentation versus fraternity.”