In a dramatic twist to the debate on price rise in the Lok Sabha on Monday, Trinamool Congress (TMC) Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar bit into a raw brinjal to ask if the Narendra Modi government was encouraging people to consume raw food as cooking gas or LPG cylinders were no longer affordable.
Initiating a debate on the issue of the price rise in Lok Sabha, Congress member Manish Tewari said that the Centre’s policies have have hit 25 crore households in the country hard and widened the divide between the rich and the poor.
BJP leader and former Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha asserted that there is no mehngai (inflation) and the opposition has been looking for it but is unable to find it.
The debate also witnessed Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Pinaki Misra raising the issue of high net worth individuals giving up Indian citizenship and asked Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to look at the aspect of such people being harassed by Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation, and Central Board of Direct Taxes.
Referring to the recent episodes of “mountains of cash” found with individuals, Mr. Misra argued that such recoveries only prove that cash is evading the tax system.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi sat in the House for a few hours to listen to the debate that started in the post lunch session.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Tewari alleged that the five pillars of the economy — savings, investment, production, consumption and employment — have been blown away due to the wrong policies of the Union government.
“During the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) regime, 27 crore people were brought above the poverty line. Then it was learnt from a report, which was made public in 2021, that as many as 23 crore people are once again below the poverty line,” he said, adding that 77% of the country’s wealth is in the hands of 1% of the population.
He said the wealth of the 92 most rich persons in India put together is equal to that of 55 crore Indians, and the number of billionaires in India had increased from 100 to 142 in these years.
The Congress leader argued that the economy had started weakening with the government’s decision to demonetise high-value currency notes on November 8, 2016; then the imposition of Goods and Services Tax (GST) hit nearly 2.3 lakh small industries.
Slamming the government over the GST hike, Mr. Tewari said, “You have increased the GST on flour, curd, paneer, pencil and sharpener. You did not spare even children.”
Hitting out at the government over the rise in fuel prices, the Congress leader said the Centre collected ₹27 lakh crore through “tax, excise duty and dividend” in the petroleum sector to swell its coffers.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Kanimozhi, who spoke in Tamil, referred to a viral post on social media about a five-year-girl from Uttar Pradesh, Kriti Dubey, writing to the Prime Minister about the increase in the price of pencil, rubber and Maggi because of the hike in GST.
The BJP’s Nishikant Dubey said the Prime Minister was providing free food to 80 crore poor people, and asked, “Shouldn’t the country be grateful to the Prime Minister for this?”
Mr. Dubey also added that fuel prices were high because of oil bonds floated by the UPA government, which the NDA government was paying now.
Calling Mr. Dubey’s speech a history lesson, the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Supriya Sule pointed out that the Modi government has been in power for eight years now and should stop blaming previous governments.