Congress: NDA government diluted provisions. BJP: Indira, Rao regime policies are at the root of problem

It was a no-holds-barred debate in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday with the Congress charging the Bharatiya-Janata-Party-led National Democratic Alliance with “diluting” provisions that would have helped to bring back black money from tax havens abroad even as the principal Opposition stoutly rejected this claim and pointed to the policies of the Indira Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao governments as being the root of the problem.

“Powers diluted”

Countering the lead attack made by veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani, who moved an adjournment motion on black money, the Congress' Manish Tewari charged the NDA regime also with diluting the search-and-seizure powers of the Income Tax department.

Countering him, Yashwant Sinha (BJP) asked Mr. Tewari not to twist facts just to malign the NDA government. The Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Mauritius was signed in 1982 when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, and FDI and other investments from there were opened up in 1993 when Manmohan Singh was Finance Minister in the Narasimha Rao government, the BJP leader said.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh criticised the government for lacking in the guts to tackle black money held abroad. Still he hoped that it would take some effective action, even as he warned that the educated youth were not willing to wait long.

Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav attributed the problem to economic reforms and liberalisation initiated in 1991. Why couldn't India retrieve black money from abroad when the United States and other countries did so successfully, he wondered. The government should speak the truth on the issue instead of weaving dreams.

Mr. Yadav said he would, however, take “Pranab-babu's word” on an assessment of the quantity of black money held abroad by Indians rather than rely on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. This brought a smile on the face of Finance Minister and Leader of the House, but when Mr. Yadav continued to praise him, saying it was he who was running the government, ‘Pranab babu' folded his hands in embarrassment.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Basudeb Acharia blamed neo-liberal policies for the menace, while assailing “successive governments” for coming up with voluntary disclosure schemes that only helped to turn black money into white.

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad demanded that the government make public the names of account holders in foreign banks. “There is mudslinging about politicians and MPs. You should put all this to rest.”

Mr. Lalu Prasad said the illegal wealth stashed away abroad should be brought back and redistributed.

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