Prime minister Manmohan Singh was less aggressive in Rajya Sabha on Friday than he was in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. He did not mince words, and he chose to name Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley and counter the points made by him. In the Lok Sabha, apart from attacking the criticism of BJP president Rajnath Singh and rhetorically engaging leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj through Urdu couplets to which Swaraj responded with two of them.
In Rajya Sabha, the verbal jousting between the leader of the House and the leader of Opposition was done through quotations from Roman senator and historian Tacitu. Jaitley ended his speech on Wednesday with two quotations from Tacitus. The first that Jaitley quoted was : “In any country the more the number of laws, the greater will be the corruption.”
The second was: “They have plundered the world stripping naked the land in their hunger. They are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor. They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretences, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.”
The prime minister began: “Since he is so obviously fond of Tacitus, I hope he will not mind if I quote some Tacitus back at him. Tacitus also said, and I quote, “When men are full of envy, they disparage everything whether it be good or bad.”
Singh started off his reply on appreciative note: “Shri Jaitley made a powerful speech. His first point with which I agree that we need growth rate of 8 to 9 per cent. He is also right that we require rapid industrialisation. That is precisely the intention of the government.”
From there on he took on the offensive, but in a more argumentative way. He said when economic reforms were introduced in 1991 with the design to accelerate industrialisation, he and the government were attacked, and they were accused that the 1992 Budget was prepared in Washington and not in Delhi. Singh pointed out: “The fact that despite changes in governments... all parties have sworn by economic reforms.”
He countered Jaitley's point that the UPA had inherited a “fast-growing economy.” He cited the growth figures for the NDA years and those of the UPA. He said that the annual growth rate in 1998-99 was 6.7 per cent, in 1999-2000: 7.6 per cent, in 2000-0:1 4.3 per cent, 2001-02: 5.5 per cent, 2002-03: 4 per cent, 2003-04: 8.1 per cent. In contrast, the growth rates for the UPA years were: 2004-05: 7 per cent, 2005-06: 9.5 per cent, 2006-07: 9.6 per cent, 2007-08: 9.8 per cent, 2008-09: 6.7 per cent, 2009-10: 8.6 per cent, 2010-11: 9.3 per cent, 2011-12: 6.2 per cent, 2012-13: 5 per cent.
Sidestepping Jaitley's criticism that there was contraction of expenditure in the 2013-14 Budget, Singh took a political stand, saying, “We are proud of expanding expenditure in the social sector, in health and education for the common man, tp provide livelihood security and inclusive growth.”
He said that the NDA government has made token provision, citing the figure for social sectors from 2001-04 standing at Rs 9,608 crore, while the the UPA allotments in 2004-05 was Rs 38,637 crore and in 2009-10 to 2011-12 at Rs 56,251 crore.
He said that with larger allocations there will be problems of expenditure and this is part of “growing up”. When Singh concluded, Jaitley got up to say that the prime minister did not refer to the problem of corruption, and that his party did not envy the UPA's record on corruption.