NEW DELHI-- Countering Rahul Gandhi's broadside on Prime Minister on inflation, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said any form of "bluster" is not a substitute for statistics as he reeled out numbers to assert that the government has brought down prices substantially.
After Congress vice president attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of failing to control prices of essential commodities like pulses and tomato, he contended that the NDA government had in 2014 inherited from UPA a double-digit inflation which has been brought substantially down and it will further reduce with good monsoon.
"Any form of bluster is not substitute of statistics," he said intervening in a debate in Lok Sabha on price rise and asked Gandhi to compare the inflation rate during the UPA government and that prevailing now.
Jaitley defended mopping up gains from slump in international oil prices by raising excise duty on petrol and diesel saying additional resources were needed to spur public investment in a weak global economy especially when private spending was lackluster and banks were unable to finance infra projects.
The NDA, he said, inherited policy paralysis from UPA and commentators often said 'I' in the BRICS nations will fallout.
From that point, the BJP-led government has turned around the economy, he said.
Stating that India has potential to achieve higher growth rates, he said additional resources raised has helped the country become fastest growing economy in the world and back of the envelop calculations being done by Congress can be misleading.
Rebutting Gandhi's 'Arhar Modi, Arhar Modi' jibe over rise in prices of pulses, the Finance Minister said, "everybody in this house seems to be claiming to be going to the market everyday."
The Congress leader in his speech cited prices collected from market to counter Modi's pre-polls slogan of bringing down inflation if voted to power.
"When the UPA left government, the economy was in a critical state and it is but natural for any contesting candidate to say that after getting elected he would try to bring down inflation. No one should have any objection to that," Jaitley said.
Calling him "arhar Modi, arhar Modi", Rahul Gandhi today took swipes at Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha and tore into his election promise of bringing down prices.
He also needled Modi on his election slogan asking people to make him a "chowkhidar" (watchman) and not PM and said under his nose but there was "theft" of pulses and he was not speaking a word on it.
In a speech that lasted just a little over 15 minutes, Gandhi asked the prime minister to give a date by which the prices of pulses will come down.
Rahul, in his seventh major intervention in the House during his career, said "During elections, Modiji had said 'make me a chowkidar' (watchman). Now, there is theft of dal under the very nose of the chowkidar. But the chowkidar has not uttered a word. He is mum. ... Now he has become a big person. Leave that job of chowkidari to the Congress," Gandhi said.
Taking a jibe at the BJP slogan 'Har Har Modi' used during the Lok Sabha polls, he said "now people are saying 'Arhar Modi'."
"You may make as many hollow promises as you want, but give us a date by when the prices of daal will come down," he said.
Listing the prices of vegetables and pulses , he said in 2014, the price of tomato was Rs 18, which has shot up to Rs 55 now. Urad and tur dal, priced at Rs 70 and 75 in February 2014, has gone up to Rs 160 and Rs 180 this month.
In a dig at the NDA government's second "happy birthday" celebrations, the Congress Vice President said the Prime Minister did not even utter a single word about rising prices during this event and sought to know why he did that.
Accusing the government of waiving Rs 52,000 crore of the corporates, Gandhi asked what benefit the government has given to the farmers and housewives of the savings amounting Rs 2 lakh crore it has made from the slump in the crude prices.
He also questioned the NDA's flagship programmes like Make in India, Stand Up India and said "the 'Make in India' programme has not got given a single job to the youth."
Gandhi said the price of pulses and vegetables have gone over the roof after the NDA came to power and the farmers have not been able to get any benefit of the steep rise in the price of these commodities.
Recalling Modi's speech at a poll rally in Himachal Pradesh in February 2014, Gandhi said while attacking the then UPA government over the issue, he had said said that 'ma- bachche raat raat rote hain, aasoon pee ke sote hain' (mother and child cry the whole night and sleep drinking the tears).
"What a dialogue," Gandhi said thrice, taking a dig at Modi who was not present in the House.
"I want to remind the Prime Minister of the promises he made to the people of the country during the poll campaign, which Modiji does not talk about now and has forgotten. He had also promised that when the BJP government comes to power, it will bring down the prices," Gandhi said.
He said there was a gap between the minimum support price for tur dal given to the farmers was Rs 45 whereas its price in the market was Rs 75. Now, the MSP has risen to Rs 50, but the price of the pulses was now Rs 180.
"So, there is a gap of Rs 130 in the NDA government.
Where is this Rs 100 going," Gandhi asked.
"People in villages are chanting a new slogan, 'Arhar Modi, Arhar Modi, Arhar Modi", Rahul said winding up his speech.
Under the Modi government, Rahul said, dal prices have risen 120 per cent.
"During the Congress government the difference between the MRP (Maximum Retail Price) and the market price was Rs 30, but today it is Rs 130," the Congress vice president said.
Rahul declared that the Modi government should name a date when the prices of vegetable and dals will come back down to normal levels. "This is a very serious matter and the truth is you can't make false promises about this," he added.
Last year, playing on the heavily-monogrammed suit that PM Modi infamously wore for a meeting with President Obama, Gandhi coined the term "suit-boot government" to accuse the ruling BJP of favouring the interests of rich industrialists over the country's poor.
This was Gandhi's come back speech in the Lok Sabha after disappearing for about two months.
In March this year, Gandhi made headlines with his speech at the Lok Sabha where he criticised the government over a range of issues including black money and the suicide of Rohith Vermula.
"Modi ji had promised that he will put people with black money behind bars, now they have come up with way to save those people. Their policy to check black money is nothing but a Fair & Lovely scheme," Gandhi had said.
(With inputs from PTI)