New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today hit back at the Congress for its new-found aggression in Parliament and outside, saying that the party leadership lacks legislative literacy and needs to “directly read” the fine print instead of depending on others.
He disagreed with a suggestion that the BJP and the government at the Centre have lost in the battle of perception on the land bill issue, saying Congress has not gained by its “Left of (Karl) Marx” tactics.
The Finance Minister also rejected Congress President Sonia Gandhi's allegations of a “generous bonanza” by giving tax cuts to the tune of Rs 2.5 lakh crore to corporates in the next four years.
“Unfortunately, the current mood is based on lack of understanding of issues. If you hear some of their speeches which go contrary not only to their own legislation, but which are influenced by the current mood. And I use the phrase to say “which is to the Left of Marx”. And something which has become completely anachronism to today's times,” he told PTI in an interview.
He was replying to a question on the aggression displayed by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul in recent times, attacking government on land bill and tax concessions to corporates.
Jaitley gave three examples to attack the Congress leaders on the party's stand relating to GST Bill, Land Bill and the Real Estate Bill.
“I would say there is a certain lack of legislative literacy. You overlook this history and then you say, they have brought this bill and I want to oppose it.
“I think a section of the Congress leaders need to start reading the fine print, rather than accepting everything that their...I think their top leadership needs to directly read themselves or change those reading on their behalf,” he said.
Jaitley said that he was concerned that the top leadership of the Congress party does not read the fine print. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill was introduced by Congress during their government and cleared by the Standing Committee. Except for one major change, everything else was as per the Standing Committee.
“Now without having read the provisions, their leadership decided to take a different view. Their leadership spoke against the Real Estate bill. It was a bill which was framed by the UPA, introduced by the UPA and the Standing Committee cleared it when they were in government. We had got the bill in legacy,” Jaitley said.
On Sonia's charge that the budget has a handout of Rs 2.50 lakh crores as tax concessions to the corporates, the Finance Minister said the whole idea of bringing down corporate tax from 30 per cent to 25 per cent came from the Direct Tax Code prepared by the UPA and introduced in Parliament.
“Their Direct Code itself said that in India corporate rates are very high. India has to be globally competitive and they need to be brought down to 25 per cent,” he said. He said of the four major changes made in GST, three were recommended by the Standing Committee during UPA and all its Congress members agreed with it.
“It was a unanimous report. All UPA Chief Ministers had recommended that. And now, how you can take up a position against me?,” he asked.
Asked about Rahul Gandhi's attacks on the Prime Minister and whether the government was taking him seriously because five ministers replied to one of his statements in Parliament, the Minister shot back saying, “I think, you (media) take him more seriously than me.”
He said when somebody raises an issue in Parliament, a contrarian point is made. “When any of these issues are raised in Parliament, the media must analyse of what the seriousness of that content is,” he said.
Asked if Rahul is a lightweight, Jaitley said, “I am not using that expression”.
To a question, he said, the Congress was not getting any advantage of agitating against the land bill, “because the farmers are also sensible enough.”
“The best evidence of this is that not a single significant protest they have been able to organise in this country. They can at best get party cadres,” he said.
The Minister termed the 2013 land bill as being squarely anti-farmer and anti-rural India and against the interests of farmers. He also termed Industrial corridors as the only methodology of creating employment in rural India, noting that the status quo created by the 2013 bill has perpetuated the agrarian crisis.
“The 2013 law is a retrograde law, it is against the interests of rural India and therefore that law inherently requires that change,” he said.
Asked why the BJP had then supported the Bill, he seemed to suggest that on the eve of General Elections it could not go against it.
“It was brought on eve of elections and with the promise to bring amendments to include irrigation and other things. Every Chief Minister after the election says it is unworkable,” he said.
He also cited the assurance given by then Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh of bringing in amendments in it, which he never did.
“With the new law we are giving an option to a state whether to implement the law or not,” he added. Asked if the land bill would be enacted by the end of the next Session of Parliament, he said, “The course we have now adopted is the fastest way of getting the law passed. You see the Parliamentary rules.”
He wondered as to how it is federalism that Bengal states that it doesn't want this law, but it also insists that Gujarat should not have this law. “Those states which are interested should have this law.”
With the Land bill now referred to a Joint Committee, Jaitley remarked: “The course we have now adopted is the fastest way of getting the law passed. You see the Parliamentary rules.”