Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday (February 12) lambasted the opposition, the Congress in particular, for ignoring the government’s pro-poor announcements in the recent Union Budget. The finance minister was reacting to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s ‘crony-jeevi’ (pro-cronyism) comment against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
“It has now become a sort of habit for some in the opposition to constantly allege, in spite of what we are doing for the poor and the steps taken for helping the poor and needy of this country… a false narrative is created to accuse that this government works only for cronies,” Sitharaman said, in response to a debate on the Union Budget 2021-22.
Listing out the government’s populist measures, the FM said 800 million people had been provided free grain, another 80 million free cooking gas, while under the direct cash benefit scheme cash was directly transferred to the accounts of some 400 million people, which includes farmers, women and the differently-abled.
“Over 1.67 crore houses were completed under the PM Awas Yojana. Is it for the rich? Over 2.67 crore households were electrified under PM Saubhagya Yojana since 2017 October. The total value of orders placed on government e-market is Rs 8,22,077 crore. Are they being given to big companies? They’re being given to MSMEs,” Sitharaman said, emphasising the government’s efforts to lift up small and medium industries.
Sitharaman also talked about the extensive reach of digital payment transactions to drive home the point that technology and the convenience that comes with it have benefitted not just the rich, but also the middle class and small traders. Over 3.6 lakh crore digital transactions were made via the Unified Payments Interface between Augusts 2016 till January 2020, the FM said.
“UPI is used by who? The rich? No. Middle class, smaller traders. Who are these people then? Is the government creating UPI, facilitating digital transactions to benefit rich cronies? Some damaads? No,” she said, taking potshots at the Gandhi family, which has often been accused of ‘parivar-vaad’ [nepotimism].
Sitharaman’s oblique reference to Gandhi family’s damaad (son-in-law) evoked sharp response from the Congress lawmakers in the House, to which she promptly said, “Does the Congress party have a trademark over the word ‘damaad‘?”