New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Saturday sought to reiterate the BJP’s “belief” in Indian businesses and entrepreneurs, saying wealth creators play an important role in the Indian economy.
Her comments come a couple of days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi batted for privatisation and respecting wealth creators, taking forward the massive privatisation push of central public sector enterprises announced in Budget 2021.
“Our belief in Indian businesses has been consistent from Jana Sangh to BJP… respecting wealth creators, taxpayers and honest citizens is something we consistently follow,” Sitharaman said in her reply to the Budget debate in the Lok Sabha.
Tearing into what she termed the “hybrid socialism followed by governments” in earlier decades, Sitharaman said such socialism ended the Indian entrepreneur’s capacity to take the economy forward.
“It started denigrating Indian businesses and made it difficult for businesses to perform. Too many regulations ended up stifling these businesses. Poverty reduction has happened when public and private enterprises were freed from licence quota raj,” she added.
In her Budget speech on 1 February, Sitharaman said the government will maintain a bare minimum presence in only four strategically significant sectors and all central public sector enterprises in other sectors will be privatised.
The sectors can be broadly classified under these heads — those important for national security like atomic energy, space and defence; critical infrastructure sectors like transport and telecommunications; sectors important for energy security, like power and minerals; and financial services.
Sitharaman pointed out that the government’s reform push was not a knee-jerk reaction.
“Disinvestment in PSE policy does not allow for elementary or rudimentary approach. It will lay a path for India to become a top economy in the world,” she said.
‘Favouring damaad is Congress style’
Sitharaman also tore into comments made by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and countered his ‘Hum do humaare do’ comment, where he had accused the government of favouring two big corporate houses.
Gandhi had spoken in the Lok Sabha Thursday as part of the Budget debate, focusing mainly on the farm laws.
She said crony capitalism and favouring the “damaad (son-in-law)” were a practice followed by the Congress. “That is your style — we two and then the daughter and son-in law,” she said, in an apparent reference to the Gandhi family.
She also questioned why Gandhi did not explain the Congress’ U-turn on the farm laws.
Sitharaman said changes in the way farmers can sell their produce outside the mandis were promised in the Congress’ 2019 manifesto. Gandhi, she added, did not raise even one real objection to the farm laws.
Further, she questioned why Congress-ruled states did not announce debt waivers, saying the party did not ask the Punjab government to provide relief to farmers on the issue of parali (stubble) burning.
She asked why Rahul Gandhi “insults constitutional authority and builds fake narratives” to tarnish India’s image globally.
She concluded her debate by saying that the Congress’ belief in a democratically elected parliamentary system is over.