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Congress on Wednesday dubbed the Rafale fighter aircraft deal as the "biggest scam" of the BJP-led government, sought a white paper and asked the Prime Minister to clarify on the matter, as other opposition parties took the ruling dispensation to task on several other issues. As Lok Sabha took up a discussion on the 2018-19 Union Budget, senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily dubbed it as a "serious assault" on the federal concept of governance. Amid continued sloganeering by BJP members, Moily asked whether it was possible to defend the country with less than 1.8 per cent of the total GDP. "This government is playing with the security of the country. And one instance is the Rafale deal... It is the biggest scam. There is complete non-transparency," he said while initiating the debate on the Budget. He claimed that for this deal, various rules and regulations of defence acquisition were also violated and there are "more questions than answers", as he accused the government of sacrificing national interest. "Defence Minister has refused to disclose the details. The deal has left more questions than answers. It is time for Prime Minister to answer these questions and the government should bring a white paper on the deal," he added. He claimed that the per aircraft price during the NDA rule came to Rs 15.708 billion as against Rs 5.261 billion negotiated during the UPA regime. "Who is responsible for the loss to the exchequer?" Expressing doubts over the government's sincerity in appointing the Lokpal, Moily said: "They (government) are not interested in Lokpal because they know this deal would be the first matter that will go to the ombudsman." Moily also sought an apology from Modi over his claim that Sardar Patel was ignored for the post of prime minister despite a majority of Congress units backing him over Jawaharlal Nehru, who eventually got the top post. Modi, as Prime Minister has questioned the Father of the Nation and he should apologise, Moily said. Referring to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, he said he has not been allowed to function independently by the present dispensation to give a better budget. Moily said the government has announced National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) in Budget 2018-19, but has provided only Rs 2 billion for that scheme, which is not sufficient. The senior Congress leader noted that Congress-led UPA government had removed long term capital gains tax on equities with a view to improve compliance. "This government (Modi led NDA) introduced LTCG tax but did not remove Securities Transaction Tax (STT). This is a double jeopardy for the investors," Moily pointed out. On disinvestment, he said Modi government has sold stake in Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) to Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to achieve its disinvestment target which completely defeats the purpose of disinvestment. "They want to make oil companies bankrupt by such steps," Moily asserted. Observing that Congress-led UPA government never wanted to sell Air India straight away to private sector, he said, "it will be detrimental to the economy of country." He insisted that successive Congress governments built many Public Sector Undertaking (PSUs) and created jobs, but the current government does not want to build any PSU. Moily also noted that due to demonetisation and faulty implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST), India's economy growth reduced by 2.5 per cent. "We had urged the government to send GST bill to the Standing Committee of Finance, but this government did not agree," he lamented. He said that due to faulty implementation of GST, many states will lose revenue. "Andhra Pradesh will lose Rs 5100 crore, Karnataka will loose Rs 50.59 billion, West Bengal will lose Rs 80.59 billion," he said, adding the government should completely restructure GST now. Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech at Davos, Moily said "Our PM who gave speech in Davos (against protectionism) increased import duties on many products, which is contrary to what he had said there ... There is no difference between US President Donald Trump and Modi." As Moily was speaking some BJP members resorted to slogan shouting. Reacting to the protests, Moily said when BJP people speak of liberal mind, they should behave like that. Ramesh Pokhriyal (BJP) said demonetisation and GST are "revolutionary steps" taken by the government and the entire world appreciated the way Indian economy was being driven. Observing that India has overtaken China in terms of growth and FDI, he said there has been a 50 per cent increase in taxpayer base and the country is on way to becoming the fifth largest economy of the world. During NDA rule, there has not been any corruption charge against a single minister of the NDA government, he said. "GST has dealt a blow to black money holders. We have been successful in containing inflation," he said. The NDA Government has focussed on empowering the minorities by way of providing them access to education and healthcare, as against the minority appeasement policy followed during the UPA regime, Pokhriyal said. S R Vijayakumar (AIADMK) said the Union Budget projects total government expenditure at Rs 24.42 trillion. The government has announced an industry-friendly defence policy and Tamil Nadu should be given priority in defence production. He said Rs 1.48 trillion capital outlay for railways is "not sufficient", while the Rs 800 billion disinvestment target to be met from stake sale of 24 CPSEs "needs introspection".
He also demanded that Salem Steel Plant and Neyveli Lignite should not be divested "at any cost". Terming the budget as disappointing, Saugata Roy (TMC) said the finance minister has not talked about the effect of demonetisation and GST. The budget is also silent on inflation and programmes like Make in India are a "total failure" and "non-starters". "Budget has seen a disappointing cut in all outlays of major schemes like MNREGA, Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana, Mid-day meal scheme and national health mission," he said. "Make in India, startup India, Digital India and Skill India seems to have fallen by the wayside," Roy said, adding that MUDRA scheme would not create jobs as it is tokenism. The Budget has not provided tax benefit to average tax payers. While imposition of the long term capital gains tax has affected the stock markets and it is "bleeding", "the finance minister has failed the fiscal consolidation test also... Mr Jaitley has a chance to live his name in the history," Roy said, adding that Jaitley was "helpless" as all financial decisions are announced by the prime minister. He said the budget has talked about ease of living for people but there are instances of violence like in Kasganj. "For development, communal harmony is important, he said and questioned whether investments would come to the country where people are dying in communal riots and this government has failed to contain these tensions. Tathagata Satpathy (BJD) joined Roy to say that TDP members are fighting for their cause and this government is neglecting them. He also raised concerns over Congress members shouting when the leader of the House was replying to the debate on motion of thanks and said it was painful that BJP members too were "vulgarly pointing and being very aggressive. They should not be doing this." Opposing the budget, he said people of Odisha was deprived in the budget. The prime minister always ask for new ideas but he has never accepted a single idea or amendment or suggestion made by non-ruling parties. He said instead of airports, the government should focus on modernising bus stands and pavements. On disinvestment, he said it is like a child selling property of his/her parents. He alleged that the deal of public sector oil companies is just a "jugglery" to cover up wrong doings of some firms. He also said there was a demand for reversal of the decision on imposing the long terms capital gains tax. If this decision is reversed, then it means it was designed to benefit some companies, he said, while opposing the budget saying it is only aimed at making the rich richer. S A Patil (SS) said it was unfortunate that TDP members are demanding their rights and the government is not able to fulfil their rights. He too added that the long term capital gains tax is step "not in right direction". He said that the demand to cut gold import duty was not met in the budget and the duty would lead to smuggling of the yellow metal. Jayadev Galla (TDP) said the people of Andhra Pradesh demand an explanation for the prime minister and finance minister on the promise to grant special status to the state. He said it was promised and "we believed the prime minister and finance minister and we are your allies. Together we fought 2014 elections. Why shouldn't we trust you," he said. Despite repeated assurances, nothing has been done on the demand, he added.