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HomeIndiaNirmala Sitharaman attacks Manmohan Singh's UPA policies, blames 'leadership problem'

Nirmala Sitharaman attacks Manmohan Singh’s UPA policies, blames ‘leadership problem’

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday continued her attack on the 10-year rule of the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, saying it suffered from a “leadership problem” as an “extra-constitutional” body. “: The National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, ran the government, which was the reason why India was hit in the economies known as the “Fragile Five”.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Budget session of Parliament on Friday. (ME TOO)

Speaking in the Lok Sabha on the discussions related to the White Paper that the minister released a day earlier, Sitharaman also contrasted the responses during two global crises, saying that the UPA-era response after the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2008 was not as sincere as the NDA government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was a more serious situation.

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He said that in the “ten scandal-ridden years of the UPA regime” there were a series of corruption scandals, including the $Rs 1.86 lakh crore coal scam, and compared it to the Narendra Modi government’s district mineral funds for local area development which she claims has cleaned up $84.9 billion rupees, benefiting the states of Jharkhand, Odisha, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh.

Read more: White paper debate: Nirmala Sitharaman slams Congress-led UPA regime, says it ‘brought the economy…’

The minister also took aim at former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan and alleged that the government at the time sought bribes to clean up environmental projects, referring to them as “Jayanthi tax”.

Initiating the debate in the Lower House on the “White Paper on the Indian Economy”, the minister said that the previous UPA government committed “scandal after scandal” in its 10 years of government and left the economy in a sorry state when he left. “God knows what the condition of this country would be today if they had continued,” he said in his opening speech in the House.

The White Paper, a 60-page document released in Parliament on Thursday, is a comparison between the Narendra Modi-led NDA government (2014-2024) and the 10-year government of the UPA regime (2004-2014). .

Sitharaman said the leadership issue in the UPA regime “was at the heart of the problem” and is “at the heart of the UPA’s 10 years of scam, mismanagement and crony capitalism”. Addressing the President, she said, “Sir, Honorable Sonia Gandhiji was the super Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Advisory Council, an unaccountable and extra-constitutional person.”

Sitharaman said “710 files” were sent to the NAC for approval, which constituted an “unconstitutional use of power”.

Former Congress Finance Minister P. Chidambaram referred to the White Paper as a “white lie document” and a “hatchet job”. “Even the authors will not claim that this is an academic, well-researched or scholarly article,” Chidambaram said in a statement. He added that no government, upon assuming office, had made “such wild promises as the Narendra Modi government and reneged on them without an expression of regret”.

Read more: Reforms and clarity of leadership led to a change of course, government White Paper shows

The White Paper, the minister stated, is prepared responsibly “so that the records of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha contain factual information on the economy” and would be a “record for posterity” on “the efforts made by a Prime Minister (referring to to Modi) to restore India’s glory” from the fragile five to the top five.

He said the coal scam caused “bhayanak nuksaan” (tremendous loss) to Bharat as it led to cancellation of 204 mining blocks by the Supreme Court. That affected domestic production and forced India to import coal to produce electricity even though the country has huge coal reserves.

The Modi government conducted auctions of coal blocks in a transparent manner for commercial mining as energy is needed for the world’s fastest growing major economy, he said.

“Aapne koyla ko rakh banaya, hamne aapne nitiyon ke tap se koyle ko heera bana diya (You turned coal into ashes, we turned coal into diamonds with the efforts of our policies),” he said, citing the expected record of 900 million tons of coal production in the current year. “Next year it will reach one billion tons,” he added.

In 2013-14, total coal production was 567 million tonnes, he said, adding that increased domestic production will save foreign exchange.

Read more: ‘Fragile 5 to 5th largest’: Center blames UPA and praises change

“When you don’t put the nation first, when you put your first family first and when you have other considerations besides transparency, the results are there for you to see. So, what happened after 2008, when there was a global financial crisis, and what happened after Covid clearly shows that if the government’s intention is sincere, the results will be good,” the minister said.

In her remarks, Sitharaman also highlighted the poor state of public sector banks (PSBs) during the UPA government. He also recalled independent India’s first major financial scam in the 1950s by Calcutta-based businessman Haridas Mundhra and the dismissal of the “honest” State Bank of India (SBI) chairman Raj Kumar Talwar in 1976. for not pleasing politicians’ friends with loans.

He said the unrest of “telephone banking” – alluding to the alleged practice of banks granting loans without due diligence and adequate collateral to cronies of the ruling party – was rampant during the UPA regime, leading to an increase in non-productive assets (ANP).

“When the Vajpayee-led NDA government assumed office, the gross non-performing assets (GNPA) ratio in public sector banks was 16%, and when they left office, it was 7.8%. As of September 2013, this ratio, including restructured loans, had risen to 12.3% largely due to the UPA government’s political interference in the commercial lending decisions of public sector banks. Worse, even that high percentage of bad debts was an underestimate,” the document said.

Sitharaman said the situation was alarming for the economy as banks were not in a position to provide more loans. “In March 2014, the top 200 companies with an interest coverage ratio of less than one owed approximately $8.6 crore to the banks,” he said.

The Modi government then launched a transparent Asset Quality Review (AQR) in 2015 to recognize hidden liabilities of banks that were swept under the carpet and reformed PSBs through the strategy of the four “Rs”: recognition, resolution, recapitalization and reform.

Participating in the debate, Congress leader Manish Tewari said the White Paper is a “political manifesto” for the upcoming general elections in 2024. “If they wanted to bring a White Paper, they should have brought it in 2014. The intention behind of this White Paper is just politics,” he said. In her concluding remarks, Sitharaman refuted the allegation. He said the Modi government did not reveal the precarious state of the economy immediately after coming to power in May 2014 because that would have had a negative impact on the morale of citizens and scared away investors.

Tiwari said the government should recognize the fact that the UPA government introduced some transformative reforms such as Right to Information (RTI), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Right to Education , Aadhaar and the National Food Security Act. . “I want to ask, what is your achievement? If you think demonetisation, or GST (goods and services tax), which destroyed small and medium industries, are achievements, I leave it to your wisdom,” he said.

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