A discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the sliding value of the rupee led to acrimonious exchanges, with an unusually combative Manmohan Singh hitting out at the Bharatiya Janata Party. (JPN/Agencies)
The Prime Minister, often criticized for maintaining silence on major issues, accused the BJP of continuously ‘opposing and criticizing’ the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
"Parliament is the supreme body in this country and is not allowed to function session after session," Manmohan Singh. "I am glad that the principal Opposition recognizes the need for consensus in the House. But building consensus is the responsibility of both the government and principal Opposition. I wish the conduct of the Opposition party was consistent while letting the ruling party govern," he said, responding to questions on his comments on the sliding rupee.
"If you are worried about investors' confidence, conduct of Parliament is an important factor. I do recognize that there is a problem, it can be resolved if the Opposition recognizes the responsibility for conduct of parliament. If the record of last nine years is looked at, the BJP has never reconciled itself that it was voted out of power in 2004," added Manmohan Singh, who has been the Prime Minister since then.
This remark went on to create commotion, with BJP members protesting loudly. Manmohan Singh continued his aggression, "Have you ever heard of a situation in any Parliament where the Prime Minister is not allowed to introduce his council of ministers? Have you ever heard of any other country where primary opposition walks to the well of the house and shouts 'PM chor hai" (PM is thief)," he asked pointedly.
As the Treasury Benches shouted ‘shame, shame,’ a miffed Opposition leader Arun Jaitley hit back, "Have you ever heard of any country where the prime minister has won the vote of confidence by buying MPs?" Jaitley was referring to the July 2008 trust vote after the Left withdrew support to UPA-I on the Indo-US nuclear deal.
The Prime Minister defended his economic policies and insisted that India was not headed towards a 1991-like crisis when it faced a balance of payment crisis, forcing New Delhi to pledge gold to pay its import bills. He pointed out that India had USD 280 billion of foreign exchange reserve - sufficient to finance nearly seven months of imports.
Jaitley said that the House wants to know about the measures taken by the government to battle the current economic situation and was not interested in political sermons. Asked what the government was doing to curb corruption, Manmohan Singh said this should not be a reason to disrupt Parliament. The war of words did not end in Parliament.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, who heads the Opposition in Lok Sabha, wrote on social networking website Twitter , "The rupee has lost its value, the Prime Minister has lost his grace."
Separately, the BJP called for early parliamentary elections to end the present atmosphere of ‘uncertainty’ in the country. BJP leader LK Advani said that the request was made to President Pranab Mukherjee.
"The way to end the present scenario of uncertainty in the country is that the Lok Sabha election, scheduled to be held in 2014, should be held in 2013 itself along with Assembly elections," Advani said.
"The free fall of the Indian rupee against the US dollar is only a symptom of the deeper malaise afflicting the Indian economy today," a memorandum submitted to the president said. "We have come to urge you, therefore, to end the prevailing uncertainty by advising this government to seek a fresh mandate at the earliest and not later than the state elections, due in the next three months," it said.
Assembly elections are due in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan during the end of this year.
A discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the sliding value of the rupee led to acrimonious exchanges, with an unusually combative Manmohan Singh hitting out at the Bharatiya Janata Party.