Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday hit out at the Opposition for creating a “false narrative” that the Centre was only working for “cronies [a reference to capitalists]”. She made the remark while responding to a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the 2021 Budget.
Sitharaman said that the Opposition unthinkingly hurled accusations at the Centre. “It has now become a sort of habit for some in the Opposition to constantly allege, in spite of what we [the Centre] are doing for the poor,” she said. “A false narrative is being created that this government works only for cronies.”
She went on to list the Centre’s pro-poor initiatives. “Over 1.67 crore houses were completed under PM Awas Yojana,” Sitharaman said. “Is this for the rich? Over 2.67 crore households were electrified under PM Saubhagya Yojana. Is this for the capitalists?”
The finance minister added that 800 million (80 crore) people had been provided free foodgrain. “Free cooking gas was provided to 80 million [8 crore] people and direct cash transfers were given to 400 million farmers, women and the poor and needy,” she said.
Sitharaman also listed the Centre’s efforts to help micro, small and medium enterprises. “The total value of orders placed on the e-market is Rs 8,22,077 crore,” she said. “Are they being given to big capitalists? They’re being given to MSMEs.”
The finance minister alleged that the United Progressive Alliance government “happily encouraged” cronies while it was in power.
Sitharaman also took a swipe at the Congress and said the Narendra Modi-led government’s policies were aimed at helping the poor and farmers and not the “damads [sons-in-law]” of this country. She was referring to Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra. Her remark caused uproar in the House.
The finance minister said the 2021 Budget was an attempt to provide a “strong stimulus” to the economy to tide over the impact of the coronavirus crisis. “We also looked at medium, long term and sustainable growth that will help us remain one of the fastest growing economies,” she added.
Sitharaman said that Budget aimed to build an “Aatmanirbhar Bharat [self-reliant India]”. The finance minister added that the government’s reforms were meant to achieve sustained growth and provide relief to the people. “The relief and succour that was so required for the people was provided in the Budget,” she added.