Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today rejected allegations that the BJP-led government favours only a few select industrialists in the country, and said that unlike the former UPA administration, it works for everybody's overall development and not just somebody's "jija".
Her remark in the Lok Sabha was seen as an allusion to Robert Vadra, the brother-in-law of former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who is being investigated by central probe agencies for alleged money laundering offences committed during the UPA rule.
"There are no jijas in our party, only party workers," the Finance Minister said in her address. "Nearly 8.8 crore farmers benefited under the PM Kisan Scheme, but who were they? Were they somebody's brother, somebody's son-in-law or somebody's brother-in-law? Eleven crore people got toilets installed in their homes. Were toilets installed only in the house of somebody's brother-in-law? No, these benefits were extended to the poor and deserving."
Businessman Robert Vadra, who is the husband of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the son-in-law of party chief Sonia Gandhi, is facing charges of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property worth 1.9 million pounds. He and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda are also accused in a Gurgaon land scam.
Ms Sitharaman then played down a recent claim by industrialist Rahul Bajaj that people feared criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration for fear of reprisal. "I have been told that I am the worst Finance Minister. They're not even waiting for me to finish my term. I ask them to give me more ideas, and we will work on it. If there's a government that listens, it is PM Modi's government," she said.
The 81-year-old industrialist had earlier told Union Home Minister Amit Shah during an event organised by The Economic Times newspaper that the atmosphere under the present government was very different from what existed earlier. "You are doing good work, but if we criticise you, there is no confidence that you will appreciate it," Mr Bajaj said, adding that one could "criticise anybody" in UPA-2.
In her address to the Lok Sabha, Ms Sitharaman also slammed Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury for saying that it would be more apt to address her as "Nirbala" Sitharaman -- claiming that no woman minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet is powerless. "Women have been given good portfolios in this government. I am Nirmala, shall remain Nirmala, and because of my party and the Prime Minister, all of us are sabala, not nirbala," she said.