Prime Minister Narendra Modi today spoke in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's parliament, and it was mainly a rebuttal of criticisms levelled at his government that he had largely ignored in the winter session. Today he came prepared with detailed notes, and hit back at the opposition.
1. One of the criticisms is that the Modi government is more into helping corporates than poor people. Modi said that is not true. "The Jan Dhan Yojana opened bank accounts for the poor: is that a program for the corporate sector or the rich? Is the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a gimmick for corporates? Is it not our responsibility to provide basic cleanliness to the common man? When we build toilets in schools, is that too for corporates? The money from coal auctions will go to states in the eastern belt and help develop that region. Is that going to benefit the corporate world?"
2. Modi said that calling the BJP a party of upper-caste people is not a valid criticism. "There was a time when the BJP was considered an 'upper caste party'. But after seeing me as prime minister, the party cannot be called that anymore."
3. Modi claimed that the UPA government had run schemes after renaming existing ones of the Vajpayee-led NDA government. "UPA accuses us of renaming schemes, but it was they who renamed NDA's schemes which were started by Atalji. Multi-purpose National Identity Card - you made it Aadhar. Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana of Vajpayee government became MNREGA. During Atal ji's time there was Freedom of Information Act, you brought Right to Information Act. In Atal ji's time there was Antyodaya Anna Yojna, you brought National Food Security Act. In Atal Ji's time, there was Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, you brought Right to Education Act. Then there was Total Sanitation campaign, you brought Nirmal Bharat."
4. Modi clarified that the government will not scale down the welfare program that provides ultra-cheap rice to the poor. A panel set up by Modi had earlier recommended lowering the number of beneficiaries to 40 percent from the current 67 percent. "The government has not decided to reduce the coverage under food security from 67 percent," Modi said. "There is no such plan either. Please do not spread information to the contrary."
5. On the controversy over transfer of senior bureaucrats, Modi referred to the previous UPA government. "We transfer bureaucrats and Ghulam Nabi Azad questions our motives. He forgot that his party had removed the Cabinet Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Defence Secretary in 2004."
6. Modi also spoke about the Land Acquisition Bill. "Don't make the land bill an issue of politics or arrogance. Please don't preach that compensation will reduce. We have not touched the clauses on compensation in the law. The law will stay, we have to remove what is lacking in that law."
7. Modi also talked about minorities. "BJP has their support. It is in power in states with high Christian, Sikh and Muslim voters," he said.