Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday attacked the Congress party, alleging that it was having links with left-wing extremist forces who would pose a threat to the unity of the country. Addressing the 52nd Annual Day celebrations of Tamil weekly magazine ‘Thuglak’, she said the ruling BJP was bringing in a “transformational change” in the country with its policies and the economy was growing fast despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Targeting the Congress, she said, “Even those places where the late prime ministers Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi would tread (carefully)…(Congress leader) Rahul Gandhi goes and stands next to them — left extremist forces who can break the unity of the country. They (Congress) are doing absentee politics. Continuing her tirade, Sitharaman said, “Congress was involving itself in absentee politics and what we needed was a Congress-mukt Bharat…. They (Congress) have done blunders, corruption, 2G scam, and were also involved in dynastic politics.”
Referring to her recent visit to the United States, Sitharaman said several industrialists were in awe of the way the digital economy has progressed in the country.
“Several industrialists enquired about the digital payment solutions, the national payment facility, the bar code reading… We (BJP) are not bringing in small changes. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, there is a transformational change,” she said. “Even the IMF has pegged the country’s economy to grow faster despite India facing COVID-19-enforced lockdown,” she said.
Referring to the vaccination campaign undertaken by the government, she said it was well received as many industrialists hailed PM Modi on the way the vaccination coverage was achieved in the country. “But what Congress created was vaccine hesitancy among the public,” she said.
Sitharaman asked whether the leadership of the Congress party received any vaccine doses or not. “When we launched the vaccination campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the jabs and we all know that. He led by setting an example as a leader. But, even now I do not know whether the Congress leadership received vaccination,” she said.
“If they say, they had received the doses, was it Indian made or foreign made? Did they ever say that they were vaccinated (against COVID-19) we do not know even now…,” she said. “I am thankful that Modi was the prime minister of our country when COVID-19 has occurred. I cannot even think what would happen if Congress was in power,” she said.
Sitharaman on the occasion also hailed bank employees for their services rendered during the pandemic. “At that time there was no vaccination. Despite all the risks involved, by wearing PPE and with necessary protective gear they went to every nook and corner of the country to serve the people. I cannot forget the service rendered by the bank employees,” she said.
On the Goods and Services Tax, Sitharaman said the Centre has paid the dues to states for 2020 and 2021. “For the years 2020, 2021 the dues have been cleared and about Rs 78,000 crore was pending which will be paid soon to all the states. It is wrong to say that we have not paid the dues to Tamil Nadu,” she said.
The ruling DMK has said that Tamil Nadu was yet to receive its outstanding dues from the Centre. Referring to a query raised on merger of banks, she said it was necessary as such financial institutions, when they become similar to State Bank of India, would be able to provide huge loans, render such services to the public.
“Amalgamation was done successfully during COVID-19 time and the bank employees did a great service…,” she said. Flaying the opposition for projecting an image that the BJP was a party of only upper castes, she said during the 2014 election her party won 66 of the 131 Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe reserved constituencies, while in the 2019 election it grew to 77.
Sitharaman said it was the BJP that had set up several memorials to B R Ambedkar, considered as a key architect of India’s constitution. Noting that the government helped several entrepreneurs in the country, she said there was a start-up revolution in the country.
Of every 10 start-ups in the world, one is from India. “Every 36th day we were creating a new start-up in 2020 and currently there are 68,000 start-ups registered in the country,” she said.
She said of the 68,000 start-ups registered, 100 have already got ‘unicorn’ status. A start-up with a valuation of over USD 1 billion is called ‘unicorn’. She charged that it was due to the “socialist goals” of the Congress, earlier people did not have an opportunity to hone their entrepreneurial skills to set up start-ups and were looking for only government jobs.
On the comments made by the regional parties in Tamil Nadu against the statement of Union Home Minister Amit Shah that Hindi language should be accepted as an alternative to English and not local languages, Sitharaman clarified that her view was that nobody should be forced to study a language.
“If a north Indian comes to our state and talks in Tamil language with us we feel happy. The same way when we go to another state we should be able to speak in their language. This is not forcing somebody to speak in one particular language,” she said.
“A Malayali may work in Dubai or in any other part of the country…but when he sees another Malayali there they speak in their language which is Malayalam,” she added.