‘Congress received kickbacks’: Finance minister on Opposition’s criticism of privatisation plans
On Tuesday, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the government was selling off the country’s assets to the prime minister’s ‘industrialist friends’.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday accused the Congress of receiving kickbacks by selling off assets of the country when the party was in power at the Centre, the Economic Times reported.
Her comments came a day after the Congress held a press briefing to criticise the government’s new initiative, 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.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday alleged that under the project, the central government was selling the country’s assets to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “industrialist friends”. Other Opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal have also criticised the National Monetisation Pipeline, according to NDTV.
However, in a press briefing on Wednesday, Sitharaman said that the Opposition needed to do “some homework” on the matter. She alleged impropriety in privatisation of the country’s assets during Congress’ regime.
“Congress can blame us for selling off the country, but they are very good at it and making kickbacks out of it,” Sitharaman said, according to the Economic Times. “The Congress party had monetised the New Delhi railway station. Why didn’t Rahul Gandhi tear down the monetisation plan for that?”
Sitharaman also questioned whether Gandhi understood what monetisation of assets meant, PTI reported.
She said that ownership of the assets leased out under the National Monetisation Pipeline initiative will remain with the government. The assets earmarked for leasing out are underutilised ones, she added.
National Monetisation Pipeline
The initiative was announced on Tuesday with the aim to provide a framework to monetise the assets and give investors a list of such properties to generate investment interest.
The plan came up on the basis of insights and feedback from stakeholders undertaken by planning body NITI Aayog and the finance ministry, the Hindustan Times reported.
At the launch of the National Monetisation Pipeline, Sitharaman said that the objective of the plan was to allow “infrastructure creation through monetisation” by collaboration of public and private sectors.
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.