Mallikarjun Kharge highlights government’s pro-Adani bias
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday contrasted State Bank of India’s alleged denial of a no-dues certificate to a Gujarat farmer for an outstanding amount of 31 paise with public sector entities purportedly granting loans totalling Rs 82,000 crore to the Adani Group.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi present in the Rajya Sabha, Kharge, the leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, read out newspaper reports about the treatment meted out last year to the farmer who had taken a crop loan and wanted the no-dues certificate to finalise a land deal.
Kharge alleged that the conglomerate had got loans totalling Rs 82,000 crore from public sector institutions.
“The Group got encouragement and support through loans from public sector banks when a farmer was not issued a no-dues certificate for an outstanding amount of 31 paise,” he said.
Kharge, who was speaking in the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address, said the wealth of a close friend of the Prime Minister increased from Rs 50,000 crore in 2014 to Rs 1 lakh crore in 2019 and Rs 12 lakh crore in 2022.
The Congress leader demanded the constitution of a joint parliamentary committee to probe the “meteoric rise”, saying the brave Prime Minister had no reason to fear a JPC.
The Opposition has been demanding a JPC probe into the allegations of fraud made by US investment firm Hindenburg Research against the Adani Group. The group denies the allegations that triggered a free fall in its stock prices.
“In 2014, the Prime Minister said na khaunga na khane dunga (Neither will I indulge in corruption nor allow others to do so). I want to ask how the wealth of a company witnessed such a meteoric rise?” Kharge asked.
The leader of the House, Piyush Goyal, rejected the demand, saying the government had nothing to do with any corporate house. “JPC is set up only when there is an allegation against the government,” Goyal said.
Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar asked Kharge to authenticate with documents the points raised by him. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said Kharge was only highlighting the valuation of wealth, not levelling any charge. Kharge then raised the government’s denial of access to the BBC documentary on Modi and said it was an attack on democratic institutions.
Questioning the Gujarat model and the “double engine” claims, he said Gujarat was among the states with the highest infant mortality rates and malnutrition among children. Modi owed an answer since he had served as chief minister of the state for 13 years and had been Prime Minister for nine years.
Instead of creating two crore jobs in a year as promised, the Modi government was not filling the reserved 15 lakh posts in public institutions, the Congress leader pointed out. He criticised the government for its decision to discontinue the Maulana Azad National Fellowship for minority students and the scholarships for children of Class I to VIII under two pre-matric schemes, one for OBCs and another for minorities. Kharge demanded the filling up of the 41 per cent vacancies in teaching posts in Ekalavya residential schools for tribal children. He said the gap between the rich and the poor was increasing.
The Congress president recalled that Atal Bihari Vajpayee had advised the Modi government to observe “raj dharma” in handling the 2002 riots. Kharge alleged the NDA government was using investigating agencies to threaten leaders of the Opposition parties and form governments in states despite the BJP not having majority on its own.
Kharge, a Dalit, expressed anguish over atrocities faced by Dalits as they were not being allowed to enter temples. “Your ministers eat at the houses of SCs. Why are they not allowed entry to temples?” he asked. Kharge alleged that the government was dividing people on the basis of religion, ignoring the constitutional values of equality, liberty and fraternity.