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NEW DELHI: Opposition in the Rajya Sabha today mounted a scathing attack on the Narendra Modi government charging it with undermining democracy and painting a "rosy" picture when ground reality was totally different, with Congress alleging a big scam in the Rafale aircraft deal.
Speakers from these parties also charged the government with being "intolerant" and "full of arrogance".
Participating in the debate on the motion of thanks for the president's address, Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma alleged there was a big scam in the Rafale deal as the price at which the planes were negotiated were four times higher and benefitted private firms.
Without taking into confidence the Defence Minister and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), Prime Minister Narendra Modi had clinched the deal during his visit to France in 2015, he alleged and noted that even state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was not consulted on the matter.
Sharma said the Modi government scrapped the 2005 deal signed during the UPA regime for the purchase of 126 jets at a rate of Rs 526 crore each and inked a fresh pact in 2015 to purchase 36 jets at a much higher rate of Rs 15,070 crore each.
The price at which India is planning to buy is four times higher than the earlier price, while Qatar has purchased 12 jets a at price of Rs 694 crore each, he claimed.
Accusing the government of not being "transparent" about the deal, Sharma said it is a "big scam" and compromised national security because neither the country's Defence Minister or the CCS nod was taken on the matter.
As per the earlier deal, 108 jets were to be manufactured by HAL, but in the new deal, the contract has been given to a private entity. The HAL has been by-passed for Rs 38,000 crore worth offset contract in favour of a private entity, he said.
"You can definitely rope in private sector but you cannot compromise the country's defence security. ...You give entire deal to a private entity. Why did you not take into the confidence of the CCS and the defence minister," he sought to know.
Sharma also said the Presidential address did not have anything on foreign policy or border problems with China, the situation in Nepal or Maldives, but just mentioned old schemes without talking about the ground reality, he said.
Hitting back at BJP President Amit Shah who had said that Congress left nothing in heritage to the current government, Sharma highlighted steps taken by former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. "The country has so many achievements. You say nothing has been done. This is showing disrespect to history and leaders," he said.
Refuting the charges against Congress of the dynasty rule, Sharma said four generations of leaders have fought for the country and sacrificed their lives. "We are proud of their sacrifice. Entire country feels proud but you may not."
He said both Opposition and ruling parties are imperative in democracy and it is a "sick mentality" to think about freeing the country from Congress rule.
"This party (Congress) is 133 years old. We are not going anywhere. ...We don't want any certificate from your party, PM and the government. We have culture and values. We will never say India without BJP. You are part of India," he said.
Earlier, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said in 2004, when the Vajpayee government left office, annual per capita income was Rs 24,000. In 2014, when the Manmohan Singh-led government ended its term, this had risen to Rs 70,000.
In contrast, the debt during the NDA rule has risen, he said, adding that it was "clear who is digging potholes".
Patel said "farmers, labourers and others - all are worried. The BJP will be defeated in 2019". He said the Union Budget, on which the government had pinned its hopes, has "turned out to be a flop".
He said not just the opposition, but BJP allies like the Shiv Sena, Telugu Desam or the Shiromani Akali Dal did not seem to agree with the "rosy projections" being painted.
Referring to statements by BJP allies, Patel said Shiv Sena had accused its saffron ally of lying, while the TDP has claimed it has reneged on its promises. Even Akali Dal has said that getting 272 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 will be a difficult task.
Due to a completely different ground situation, the BJP is not keen on holding the Lok Sabha bypolls due in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, he said, adding that it would fall below the majority mark if it loses these bye-elections.
Patel also claimed that a "feeling of insecurity" was prevailing across the country, whether it is in the social fabric, economic matters, national security, judiciary or independent constitutional institutions. There is no area which has escaped the feeling of insecurity, he said.
Making his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha, Aam Aadmi Party member Sanjay Singh attacked the BJP saying the democratically-elected AAP government in Delhi was not being allowed to function while referring to President Ram Nath Kovind disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs for holding an office of profit.
Singh told the BJP members that the country will not run on the foundation of hatred, and claimed that Indian democracy was in danger, as he referred to the arrest of some AAP MLAs in the recent past on various charges.
While a whopping Rs 8.55 lakh crore was given as loans to big corporates, but the person not repaying Rs 9,000 crore (an apparent reference to beleaguered tycoon Vijay Mallya) hopped on a flight to flee the country, he said.
He also alleged that the BJP government has not fulfilled the promises made regarding job creation and the loan waiver to farmers and added that it has also betrayed the trading community through measures like demonetisation, foreign direct investment in retail and sealing of commercial establishments.
CPI leader D Raja said the government has been working against the political democracy in the country and deepened the social inequality through its policy of "divide and misrule."
"Quoting (Dr Babasaheb) Ambedkar and acting contrary to his vision has been the practice of this government.. It sounds offensive to the very vision of the Constitution and the legacy of Dr Ambedkar," Raja said.
He said the nation was passing through a very critical period and there was the all-pervasive crisis in economic, political, social and cultural life and in the organs of the state including the judiciary.
Raja alleged that the power of Parliament was being curtailed as the government was taking the Money Bill route for passage of several legislations and undermining the Parliament by not referring Bills to Parliamentary Committees.
Appealing to all parties to think over the issue, Raja said the situation is very challenging and not good for the country. "Is it not a fact that there are increasing attacks on dalits, minorities and adivasis."
He said those who question the government are increasingly under attack, including intellectuals, artists and journalists, and added that sedition charges were being slapped on student activists.
Abdul Wahab (IUML) criticised the government on issues like Triple Talaq, subsidy cut for Haj travel and minorities, saying these were against the interest of Muslims.
Sanjiv Kumar (JMM) said opposition leaders are being targeted in Jharkhand, while B K Haripasad (Cong) referred to the mention of Deendayal Upadhyay's name in President's address and asked what his contribution to the nation was.
Nominated member KTS Tulsi opposed the idea of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections, saying the government was prioritising stability over democratic principles. He claimed that the concept was a threat to democracy and added that it was being "mindlessly" brought in to serve the "greed" of staying in power.
Joy Abraham (KC-M) said he was thoroughly disappointed as the President's address did not reflect the realities in the country. He claimed that free trade agreements signed with the 10 ASEAN nations and the Regional Comprehensive and Economic Partnership trade deal would ruin cultivators who were not getting remunerative prices.
Abraham alleged that democracy was killed in Manipur and Goa, referring to the BJP-led government forming governments in the states.
BSP's Satish Chandra Mishra said the condition of farmers in the country has worsened and claimed that voters will not give a chance to the BJP-led government to present the next Budget. Rajani Patil (Cong) said that Congress was the only party which has been a key contributor to India's freedom struggle movement.
DMK member RS Bharati said that Tamil Nadu was neglected in the budget. He also raised the issue of water for farmers. He also raised another issue related to a resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly on the NEET exam.