The BJP, armed with official growth figures, came all guns blazing against the Congress's nine questions for Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his nine-year tenure at the Centre. Calling them "a bundle of lies and a mountain of deception", former minister and top BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday said he first thought of ignoring it, but it's such a "big pack of lies" that he felt it necessary to set the record straight.
"These questions, full of frustration, have emerged out of Congress's hatred for PM Modi. These are not questions arising out of criticism, which they have a right to do, but are the result of a pathological hatred towards Narendra Modi," Mr Prasad said.
They (Congress) have questioned Covid "mismanagement", the former union minister fumed, terming it "not just a lie, but the height of Congress's shamelessness".
They have questioned the lockdown as well, even when the entire world accepts that India's Covid management was the best, he said, citing various government efforts to contain the pandemic. He said the grand old party is free to criticise, but questioned why it was "weakening India's resolve" using that.
"This is a huge disrespect to the lakhs of service workers -- doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, and ambulance drivers -- who tried to save the country during the Covid crisis. We condemn this strongly," he said.
Ravi Shankar Prasad said he was 'amused' by Congress's claim that India's economy is in very bad shape. The Indian economy was a part of the "fragile five" during former PM Manmohan Singh's tenure, he pointed out, adding that under PM Modi's nine years at the helm, it is among the top five globally.
The former minister then highlighted figures that he asserted indicated massive growth in the economy.
"Indian economy was 1 trillion dollars in 2014, it has now crossed 3.5 trillion dollars. India has more than 50 lakh crore forex reserves. India exported goods worth Rs 36 lakh crore, this was just Rs 19 lakh crore in 2014. It almost doubled," he said.
On price rise, Mr Prasad countered by comparing annual inflation figures with top economies across the globe.
"In April 2023, India's annual inflation was 4.7 per cent. In the US, it was 8.9, Australia 8.5, France 17.5, Sweden 21.2, and Germany 23.5," he said, adding that this was despite the Ukraine war 'dislocating' the global supply chain, affecting the entire world.
He then turned to questions on farmers. Citing Minimum Support Price figures, he said Congress was lying about MSP.
"MSP for Rice was Rs 1,360 per quintal in 2014-15, today it's Rs 2,040 per quintal. Paddy was Rs 1,400, it is now Rs 2,060 per quintal. MSP for jowar was hiked from Rs 1,530 to 2,970, for bajra it went from Rs 1,250 to 2,350, and toor dal MSp went up from Rs 4,350 to Rs 6,600," Mr Prasad said.
"They should check records and correct their data before making allegations," he added.
The former minister then sought to "fact check" Congress's allegation that manufacturing was weakening.
Mr Prasad said India was doing Rs 16,000 crore worth of defence export, and is the second-biggest mobile manufacturer in the world.
"In 2022-23, mobile phones worth Rs 90,000 crore have been exported, employing around four to five lakh people (70 per cent women). In 2014, India exported 78 per cent of its mobile phones. Now 99 per cent of India's requirement is met by made-in-India mobiles," he said, without giving out a comparison of overall manufacturing data.
Mr Prasad also hit out at the Congress for questioning the Goods and Service Tax, which the former Congress president had called the "Gabbar Singh Tax".
Rs 1.87 lakh crore revenue was generated from GST, the highest ever, he said, and went on to cite data from Direct Benefit Transfers.
"In 2022-23, 6,68,435 crore rupees were transferred directly to the bank accounts of the poor as part of 312 schemes. Rs 2,73,093 crore was saved, which was earlier siphoned off by middlemen," he said.
India's fintech market is one of the biggest in the world, Mr Prasad pointed out. "It was Rs 50 billion dollars in 2021 and will touch 150 Billion dollars by 2025. Digital payments in India are worth 10 billion dollars," he said, suggesting India's giant strides towards digitisation were boosting the economy.
On the question of unemployment, Mr Prasad did not quote official figures but suggested that the pace of road construction, development of metros, and railway electrification, among other things, have surely generated employment. He also said tech Unicorns are employing scores of people.
"Railway electrification was just 33 per cent in 2013-14, today it's 90 per cent. India has the cheapest internet in the world. 74 new airports have been constructed," Mr Prasad said, suggesting these were driving employment.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, on the question of corruption, mocked Congress, citing sensational allegations of corruption during its term at the Centre, specifically naming the 2G scam, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh scam, Bofors, submarine, and helicopter scam.
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, flanked by party leaders Pawan Khera and Supriya Shrinate, earlier today released a booklet 'Nau saal, Nau sawaal' and said PM Modi had become the prime minister on this day nine years ago and therefore, the party wants to ask nine questions of him.