Attacking BJP for continuously "opposing and criticising" the government, he said, "If the record of the last nine years is looked at, the principle opposition has never reconciled to the fact that it was voted out of power nine years back." (Photo/PTI)
A combative Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made a scathing attack on the BJP in the Rajya Sabha, accusing them of hurting investors' sentiment by repeatedly disrupting Parliament, triggering a war of words.
He asked the principal opposition party to recognise its responsibility of ensuring smooth functioning of Parliament asserting that it was not the responsibility of the government alone as contended by the BJP.
"Building of consensus is both the responsibility of government and the opposition. I wish the conduct of the opposition party was consistent while letting the ruling party govern," he said responding to clarifications on his statement on the sliding Rupee.
Attacking BJP for continuously "opposing and criticising" the government, he said, "If the record of the last nine years is looked at, the principle opposition has never reconciled to the fact that it was voted out of power nine years back."
Amid repeated disruptions and din due to clashes between the Treasury Benches and the BJP, the Prime Minister noted that Parliament is the supreme body of the country but if it is not allowed to function session after session, investors' confidence will be affected.
Hurt over being targeted by BJP, Singh asked the Chair, "Have you heard of any country where the Prime Minister is not allowed to introduce his council of ministers. Have you heard of Parliament in any country where the opposition shouts 'Prime Minister chor hai'. The type of things that have been said here."
At one point, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley shot back saying, "have you heard of any country where the Prime Minister has won the vote of confidence by buying MPs?", triggering uproar.
The reference was to the July 2008 Trust Vote sought by the Prime Minister in the wake of Left parties withdrawing support on the Indo-US nuclear deal issue.
Dissatisfied with Singh's statement and his replies to the clarifications, BJP members staged a walkout.
Singh earlier said it was not correct to say investors had lost confidence in India and noted that repeated disruptions of Parliament were affecting investor sentiment.
"I am not making a partisan point. If you are conscious of investment, both foreign and domestic, the conduct of Parliament is important course," he said, adding "There is a need for consensus and building a consensus is that (job) of both."
Recognising that there is a problem that needs to be resolved, he asked BJP to recognise this.
"I do recognise that there is a problem. This can be resolved only if opposition does recognise its conduct in Parliament. This is not something that can be done unilaterally. It takes two to clap," he said.
Acknowledging the need for taking corrective measures, he said, "There is a problem that foreign investors should not get wrong signals."
On corruption, the Prime Minister said, "Corruption is there, has been there. But in recent years, the RTI and the activism of various agencies has brought out certain things which are regrettable...These activisms should not be used for disruption of Parliament."
He, however, said his government has "no desire to protect the guilty" and the investigative agencies and courts were doing their job in bringing the guilty to book.
On the missing files of coal block allocation scam, Singh said, "I am not the custodian of files" that led to uproar, with BJP members questioning him "Then who is?"
"I appeal to Leader of the Opposition and all members of the House to recognise that there is a collective responsibility we owe to out country that India remains a bankable, creditable investment opportunity," he said.
The Prime Minister claimed that the fundamentals of the Indian economy were sound, but did not deny that there were deficiencies. He said there was a responsibility to act collectively to deal with the current crisis.
On inflation, he said it does hurt the poor, but various public sector agencies have helped keep prices of wheat and rice at the same level as in 2003. He said some rise in prices of foodgrains was inevitable to correct the adverse trade in agriculture and farmers needed better terms of trade.
Exuding confidence that the rising food prices would come down in view of a good harvest after a good monsoon, he said this would provide an opportunity to deal with inflation which was not possible before.
Singh refuted claims that India was moving back to the situation of 1991 financial crisis saying, "We are not at that level. We'll not go to that extent. We have no reason to believe that Indian economy is back to 1991 level...We have no reason to believe that we are going down the hill that 1991 is on the horizon," he said.
He also rubbished as "entirely unfounded" fears that Indian economy may go to 3 per cent growth level and exuded confidence that the country's economy would grow at 5.5 per cent during the current year.
"We have the resources and will power to put the economy back to high growth rate of 6 to 8 per cent," Singh claimed.
He said "FDI is not affected" and asked members not to be too much influenced by speculative inflows and outflows as "speculators are not the best judges of health of economy".
Singh said he would participate in the G-20 Summit in St Petersburg where he will raise concerns of the developing countries and ask developed nations to take into account the repercussions that their decisions have on the economy of developing countries.
"The way world economy is functioning, there is no adequate coordination of macro and fiscal policy in the world," he said.
The Prime Minister said depreciation is not a universally acceptable formula and it provides for a corrective but it has consequences on the rise in prices of petroleum products and pressure on monetary policy to take corrective measures.
He claimed that rupee depreciation provided an opportunity to put in place corrective measures by increasing exports.
Singh noted that prices of onions rise and fall and no central government can say that it can control all prices.
He said Food Minister Sharad Pawar had written to states some months back for arranging storage of onions.
"Yet no state government took advantage of that...Prices would have been more stable had states acted in time,"he said.
Earlier, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley attacked the government for the current state of economy and said "domestic factors have also contributed to the mess that the country has landed in".
"The legacy that you leave behind is going to be 'after we, the deluge'," he said.
While attacking the government for its failure to control economy, Jaitley said, "A failed candidate in the class always has the explanation that the whole class has failed."
Taking a jibe at Singh, he said, "We are extremely grateful to Prime Minister that he has finally spoken on the issue which is of utmost concern to the country."
He said though the country has braved many financial crises in the past, "today the situation appears to be far more gloomy".