A day after the Lok Sabha Speaker apologised and Junior Finance Minister Anurag Thakur had to say he was pained after repeated adjournments in the house because of his comments on former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Gandhi family, the BJP leader appeared defiant in parliament on Saturday, saying he had done no wrong.
Attacking Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for going abroad for treatment, alleging a diversion of funds and misuse of properties by foundations controlled by the Gandhis and getting funds from ministries and public sector companies, Anurag Thakur led the attack on the opposition in response to queries about the PM CARES fund.
Condemning the attack on the Gandhis, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury took on the minister, saying there was decorum for referring to former leaders and it was not being followed. He attacked the BJP for continuously saying the Congress had scammed the taxpayers but not one allegation could be substantiated.
Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi attacked the BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and asked whether the money donated to PM CARES fund by Chinese companies like TikTok money would be returned since Indian soldiers were fighting on the borders against China's incursions.
Other opposition parties too raised questions about the fund set up to tackle national emergencies like the COVID-19 crisis.
"I can't understand the logic to have a separate fund. What is the difference between the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund and the PM CARES Fund... The question of transparency and accountability is the main issue I want to highlight," said N K Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP).
Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress also asked why the PM CARES Fund is not answerable to parliament even though it collects funds from the public. She said that 38 public sector companies contributed Rs 2,100 crore to the fund which is 70 per cent of the total corpus.
The government said that the PM CARES fund is a registered charitable trust and the Prime Minister and other key cabinet ministers are ex-officio members in a framework that will now be institutionalised.
"The PM-CARES fund was registered on March 27, 2020, under the 1908 Act. An independent auditor was appointed. Nobody is forced to donate to this fund. The members of the trust are all ex officio members such as Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance," Anurag Thakur said.
Deflecting the demand for PM CARES to be brought under the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), he said, "Those who are demanding CAG audit for this trust, are they ready for the audit of all the trusts being managed by one family?"
(With inputs from PTI)