Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Mild-mannered Manmohan Singh hits back with stunning effect

Senior BJP leader L.K.Advani was not there in the Lok Sabha when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rose to give his reply to the Motion of Thanks to the Address of President. BJP president Rajnath Singh who opened the debate on the Motion of Thanks was there along with Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and deputy leader Gopinath Munde. On the other side, the Congress benches were full led by party president Sonia Gandhi. Singh referred to the two-day BJP national council meeting and observed that the BJP leaders used choicest abuses -- he was indirectly referring to the intemperate speech of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi -- and said that he would like to reply with figures. He fell back on the economist's favourite weapon of offensive: figures. Prakash Javadekar moving the economic resolution said that during the six-year NDA period, growth was over 8 per cent and inflation was kept down at 5 per cent, whereas in the UPA time, the growth rate was at 5 per cent and the rate of inflation was at 10 per cent. Singh said that the average growth rate of the GDP from 2004 to 2013 was 7.9 per cent while the average growth rate from 1998-99 to 2003-04 was 6 per cent. He said agricultural growth from 2004-05 to 2011-12 was 3.7 per cent while it was 2.9 per cent from 1998-99 to 2003-04. He said the rural per capita consumption rate during the UPA time in office is 3.4 per cent because of programmes like the MGNREGS while it was 0.8 per cent during the NDA period. He said real wages grew by 6.8 per cent during the 11th Plan period while in the previous decade the figure stood at 1.1 per cent. He said that the annual decline of poverty declined by 2 per cent during the UPA period while during the NDA time declined by 0.8 per cent. While expressing concern about slowdown in industrial growth, he said that it has been 8.5 per cent during the UPA period compared to 5.6 per cent growth from 1998-99 to 2003-04. And he did not hesitate from taking political swipes either. " We have seen how the Shining India campaign led to a disastrous result in 2004. And in 2009, Advani the ' lion' was pitted against Manmohan Singh 'the lamb'". Manmohan Singh ended with the Hindi saying, ' jo garajte hain woh baraste nahin (Those (clouds) which thunder do not rain." At the beginning of his speech, he said that the "current account deficit (CAD) was higher than what it should be." He said that the "slowdown in the economy need not persist" and that there should be increase in the rate of savings and an increase in the rate of investments." He also cautioned the need to "contain the growth of subsidy". He hoped that the 12th Plan growth rate would be 8 per cent and growth in agriculture will be 4 per cent. He said that except Deve Gowda no one talked about what he considered to be a serious problem: water. "We have a national problem. Great importance has to be given for dealing with this problem". He also said that the urban and industrial demand of water is to be looked at and ground water resources have to be better preserved. Sushma Swaraj countered Singh's recital of a Urdu couplet by quoting two, and Rajnath Singh expressed surprise that for the first time in nine years Manmohan Singh was in the attack mode. While accepting Singh's proverb that those clouds that thunder do not rain, but said that Singh's late flare was sign of the candle that burns brightest before dying out, and he said that the UPA was not coming back after next year's election.

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