The Congress on Wednesday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has insulted the Rajya Sabha by calling it "obstructionist", and asserted that the Upper House has refused to be a "rubber stamp".
Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma also alleged that the prime minister, in his reply to the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address, has not responded to some of the issues of unemployment and economic slowdown raised in the Rajya Sabha.
"The Prime Minister has insulted today the Council of States - the Rajya Sabha. It was unfair and most unfortunate that the prime minister has chosen to do so. He has called Rajya Sabha obstructionist," he told reporters at a press conference.
The Congress leader alleged that the prime minster and the BJP, who have a brute majority in the Lok Sabha, have departed from the established practice of the Standing Committee system wherein the bills brought before the House were sent for legislative scrutiny before it became a law, as every law impacts the citizens of the country.
"Parliament has to be careful in the enactment of the laws. That is why the system of checks and balances. The government expected the Rajya Sabha to be a rubber stamp which we refuse to be. Rajya Sabha is doing its constitutional duty to ensure that every legislation goes through the legislative and parliamentary scrutiny before it is passed and becomes the law of the land.
"So, the PM should take back this unfair accusation and insult to the Rajya Sabha. It is also not correct that the Rajya Sabha was obstructing it any manner," he said.
Mr Sharma pointed out that the prime minister has alleged that for five years, they faced obstruction from the Rajya Sabha and bills were not passed, some of which have elapsed. He added that the PM needs to be reminded that the Rajya Sabha is the first House of Indian Parliament and the permanent one and has certain constitutional responsibilities and duties.
He said the PM should first see the BJP's own track record between 2004 and 2014, and make that public to ascertain how many bills were stopped and how many constitutional amendments could not be passed due to obstructions caused by the saffron party.
"The BJP as a political party opposed the constitutional amendment on the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh. They did not allow that amendment to be passed in the Rajya Sabha until the change of the government in 2014. The BJP as a party opposed the Constitution Amendment throughout on GST and the charge was led by the then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi," he told media persons.
Mr Sharma said the prime minister should at least have been gracious to thank the Rajya Sabha and that it was the Congress as opposition which ensured these two stalled Constitution Amendments were passed.
"The GST Constitution Amendment could be passed in the Rajya Sabha only because of the Congress party. Congress has the numbers. Congress had the numbers. Without us, no constitutional amendment would have been passed. So, therefore, prime minister has been unfair to the opposition and to the Rajya Sabha," he said.
Mr Sharma said the prime minister has not responded to some of the issues raised during the discussion in the Rajya Sabha, particularly with regard to the road map this government has for reviving the Indian economy as there is a visible slowdown of investments, no new factories are being created and the gross fixed capital formation during the previous five years has been stagnant at 2-3 per cent.
He said the banks have no money to lend, the industry has no capacity to take credit, which has fallen to at least its five-decade low and investment itself has fallen by seven percentage point.
"As a result, unemployment has risen to a 45-year high. The prime minister has not responded as to how they propose to bring in both public investment and private investment, how will they ensure the utilisation of the existing industrial capacity, 1/3rd of which is idle, what plan of action his government has to create jobs," he said.
The Congress leader said concerns have been expressed about new India and the prime minister not acknowledging the journey of India which started on August 15, 1947, and when India became a republic on January 26, 1950.
Mr Sharma said he responded partially about Sardar Patel that he was a Congress leader and said the prime minister referred to his statue, but it is more important to imbibe his message.
Talking about the prime minister's speech that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel should have been the first prime minister, he said Sardar Patel passed away in December 1950 and India's first general election was held in April 1952.
"The prime minister should have at least known that Sardar Patel had left us well before the first election. It was an interim government at the time of independence which continued until the general election."
He also asked the PM and his government to accept that Sardar Patel's order of February 4, 1948 banning the RSS and the reasons he gave in his handwritten order should be put beneath the statue of Patel and that would be a befitting tribute to him.
Mr Sharma said there was a difference between political violence and lynching, but hoped that the PM would take exemplary action against the accused in lynching cases.
"We are happy that the prime minister has reassured that there will be deterrent action. We believe in his words and assurances. We hope such action will take place," he added.
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