Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that the Centre was selling the country’s assets to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “industrialist friends”.

“The prime minister is not working for the people of India...the prime minister is working for two or three monopolists,” the Congress leader said at a press briefing.

The comment came a day after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the National Monetisation Pipeline. Under the initiative, the government aims to raise Rs 6 lakh crore over a four-year period till 2025 by leasing out state-owned infrastructure in various sectors including, power, road and railways, to private entities.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Gandhi alleged that the plan was meant for creating monopolies in key sectors. He also said that the move would result in a reduction of jobs.

“Narendra Modi ji and BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] had a slogan that nothing has happened in 70 years,” Gandhi said. “The assets that were built in our nation in the past 70 years, the finance minister decided to sell them yesterday.”

Gandhi said that the Congress was not against privatisation but had objections to the assets the government had earmarked for it.

“We privatise industries which are chronically in losses,” the Congress MP said. “We privatise companies which have minimal market shares. But here, privatisation is being done to create monopolies.”

Other Congress leaders also criticised the Centre for the privatisation strategy under the National Monetisation Pipeline.

Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said that the BJP government gave rhetorics of “self-reliant” India but has made the country dependent on Modi’s “billionaire friends”. “All work for those billionaire friends, all wealth for him,” she tweeted.

Another party leader, Jairam Ramesh, described the plan as “legalised loot and plunder”.

“First came the demonetisation disaster, which Dr Manmohan Singh rightly described as ‘organised loot and legalised plunder’,” Ramesh said. “Now comes monetisation mela – invaluable public assets created over decades given away to a chosen few.”

The party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged the country’s assets would cease to exist if the BJP government remained in power.

“Sale of country’s properties worth Rs 6 lakh crore – roads, rail, mines, telecom, power, gas, airports, ports, sports stadium...Modi ji will sell everything from the earth to the sky,” he tweeted with the hashtag “#StopSellingIndia”.

National Monetisation Pipeline

The National Monetisation Pipeline was announced on Tuesday to provide a framework to monetise the assets and give investors a list of such properties to generate investment interest, the Hindustan Times reported.

The plan was created on the basis of insights and feedbacks from stakeholders undertaken by the NITI Aayog and the finance ministry.

The finance minister has said that the objective of the plan is to allow “infrastructure creation through monetisation” in which public and private sectors can collaborate for socio-economic growth and improving the quality of life of the country’s citizens.

Sitharaman added that the ownership of the assets leased under the plan would remain with the government and the private entities will have to return the asset after a decided period of time, reported NDTV.

Assets of roads, railways and power sectors make up to 66% of the total estimated value of properties that will be monetised. The remaining will come from other sectors, including aviation, telecom, ports, warehouses, mining, stadiums and natural gas and petroleum product pipelines.