A ‘white’ vs ‘black’ war dominated Indian politics Thursday with the government and the opposition releasing competing factsheets on the condition of the economy during the 10 years of the Congress-led UPA and the past decade, during which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP has been in power.
The Congress presented its document – a ‘black paper’ titled ’10 saal anyay kaal‘, or ’10 years of an unjust rule’ – in which it flagged issues such as the cost of living crisis, rising unemployment, and the subversion of institutions, including the judiciary and the press.
The document also pointed to protests by farmers – which made headlines in 2020/21 after violent clashes with security personnel, and again this morning – that have “plagued” the country.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, releasing the 54-page ‘black paper’, indicated opposition had released it because “when we speak about failures of the government it is not given importance”.
“Whenever PM presents his views in Parliament, he hides his failures. Therefore, we thought of bringing out a ‘black paper’ (to) tell the public about the failures of the government,” he said.
— ANI (@ANI) February 8, 2024
“The Modi government is silent on price rise… prices of petrol, diesel and daily essentials has reached record levels,” Mr Kharge told reporters. He also pointed to the “disastrous” demonetisation of 2016, the caste census row, and crimes against women.
The Congress boss also said the “failures” of the Modi government over the past 10 years reflected a period of “injustice” and “discrimination” against states not ruled by the PM’s BJP.
“Modiji, when you were Chief Minister of Gujarat (when the UPA was in power at the centre), you used to talk about tax rights of Gujaratis… then you said states should get 50 per cent tax. You also said people of Gujarat pay Rs 48,600 crore tax and get only 2.5 per cent back.”
That jab comes amid a fight between over allocation of funds, including devolution of taxes. The Congress government in Karnataka and the ruling Left Front in Kerala both protested this today.
He also attacked the BJP for toppling elected governments – the reference was to Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress was ousted after MLAs switched sides amid pay-out rumours.
“They are using money to finish democracy. They made 411 MLAs cross over to their side. We had elected governments in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh… You know what happened,” he said.
#WATCH | On releasing ‘Black Paper’ against Modi govt, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge says,” There is a danger to democracy in the country…In last 10 years, 411 MLAs were taken on their by the BJP. They toppled so many Congress governments. They are finishing… pic.twitter.com/9oOhYKkyvW
— ANI (@ANI) February 8, 2024
The trading of papers comes weeks before a general election, with each side jostling for top-of-mind recall when nearly 95 crore Indians head to the polls in April/May.
The government’s white paper – proposed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week and tabled in Parliament this afternoon – ripped into the Congress, accusing it of mishandling the economy through policy paralysis and corruption, leading to crises like double-digit inflation.
In it, the government said it faced a “hydra-headed challenge” in fixing the economy and “restoring its fundamentals to sound health”, noting it inherited a “fragile” economy now in the top five.
With input from agencies
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