New Delhi, March 6: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednsday took on the principal opposition party BJP in the Lok Sabha. Singh accused the BJP of using "choicest abuses" against the UPA, the ruling alliance, but the latter could not use the same to retaliate.
Mocking the BJP
The prime minister said it was not the first time that the BJP was showing its arrogance. He mocked the latter's Shining India campaign, which flopped during the 2004 general elections. He said the NDA might be defeated again if they did not get rid of the arrogance.
During his 45-minute speech, the veteran leader also took a dig at senior BJP leader L K Advani, saying that the saffron party had fielded the ‘Iron Man' in the 2009 parliamentary elections and lost. Advani was the BJP's prime ministerial candidate in that election and he had attacked Manmohan Singh ahead of the polls.
Comparison with NDA government
The prime minister said the UPA's economy functioned better than that of the BJP-led NDA government which was in power between 1998 and 2004 and its economic achievements could not be belittled. Singh, who was delivering the vote of thanks on the address made by President Pranab Mukherjee to a joint sitting of both Houses of the Parliament, said the UPA government had achieved the highest growth rate ever by any government serving in office. He said even if the comparison was limited to the six years when the NDA was in power, it showed that the growth then was just 6%.
"Will bring the country back to 8% growth path"
PM Singh said that the country's economic slowdown would not persist and his government was determined to bring the country back to the growth path of eight per cent.
"As the honourable president mentioned, our economy has faced a difficult situation in the past year. However, I do want to emphatically endorse the view of the finance minister (P. Chidambaram) that the slowdown in the economy need not persist," Singh said, during a discussion on the motion of thanks to President Pranab Mukherjee for his address to a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament.
Singh said the UPA government's aim was to achieve an average GDP growth of eight per cent during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17) and the focus would remain on inclusive growth.
Singh said the UPA government had succeeded in delivering an average economic growth rate of 7.9 per cent since it had assumed office.
Industry, investment, growth
The PM said that more efforts were required to boost growth and promised to work for promotion of investments. He said while the current slowdown in industrial growth is a concern, his government will continue to focus on inclusive growth and will need more investments. There is a need for further efforts to boost growth, he said, adding "Our growth rate is impressive but we are not satisfied ... We need to do a lot more". He also compared the industrial growth rate, saying while the average growth for the past nine years was 8.5 per cent, it was 5.6 per cent during the NDA years.
On poverty and social issues
The prime minister said poverty declined at 2 per cent per annum in the UPA years, while the rate was no more than 0.8 per cent when the NDA was in power. "Inequality is not increasing ... Even BIMARU states have also done much better in UPA period than previous period," Singh said. He added that the country has fared much better in areas of higher education, skill development and environment protection after they came to power.
Improvement in agriculture
Prime Minister Singh said the improved performance in the agriculture sector was reflected by the rise in per capital consumption in the rural areas during the UPA's rule. He said the agricultural growth during the UPA's time was 3.5 per cent, compared to 2.9 per cent per year when the NDA was in power.
The Congress prime minister also said that his government's policies saw a yearly 6.8 per cent increase in real agricultural wages in the 11th Five-Year Plan. In the previous decade, the rate was just 1.1 per cent. He said the agriculture growth was expected to be more than the 1.8% projected during the current fiscal.
Admits problems in water management
PM Singh admitted problems on account of water management, adding that the government was planning to bring a national water framework law on this.
Current account deficit
The PM aid the current account deficit is substantially higher than the government would like it to be.
Stressing women safety
The prime minister reiterated that the government was committed to ensure dignity, safety and security of every woman in the country. Singh's emphasis on women's security is important ahead of the Women's Day on March 8.
The PM also backed Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram's announcing the Nirbhaya fund of Rs. 1,000 crore in the general budget this year. He said Chidambaram's announcement showed his government's commitment for the women's cause.
‘Nirbhaya' was the name given by the media to the 23-year-old paramedic student who was brutally gangraped and assaulted in a moving bus in New Delhi on December 16. She later succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital on December 29.
Emphasis on security of Indian fishermen
PM Singh said the Indian government engaged with the Sri Lankan government over the safety and security of Indian fishermen. He said that New Delhi's position on the island-nation at the UN would depend on the final text of the resolution to be moved by the United States.
Concern over developments in Maldives
The prime minister also said that New Delhi was concerned over the ongoing developments in the Maldives, where former president Mohammed Nasheed was recently arrested.
Beheading of Indian soldier by Pakistani troops
PM Singh said the barbaric beheading of an Indian soldier by the Pakistani troops in January has cast a shadow on the bilateral ties between the two neighbours. He also took a dig at Pakistan, saying New Delhi was yet to observe a tangible progress on dismantling terror bases by Islamabad or to bring to books those who masterminded the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008.
(With agency inputs)