Sivaganga (TN): Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said Tuesday he suspected that the BJP wanted war and not peace and accused the saffron party of trying to cover up its government’s “gross failures” by taking a hardline in its manifesto on “what they call national security.”
Chidambaram, training his guns on BJP for its position on Articles 370 and 35A, said suggesting the repeal of these constitutional provisions would sow the seeds of a “major disaster” in Jammu and Kashmir. To a question on how his party was going to counter the nationalism pitch of the BJP, reflected in its manifesto, Chidambaram in an interview to PTI in Sivaganga district, said, “The BJP cannot speak about what it did and failed and what it failed to do”.
“BJP’s manifesto does not speak about demonetisation. It no longer speaks about 2 crore jobs, which is an admission of failure. Because they have to cover up these gross failures they are now taking a hardline on what they call national security.” For 10 years during the UPA rule, he said, India was absolutely secure without any threat of war between India and Pakistan or China. “There was no fear that any day, anytime war will break out between India and Pakistan. Therefore, to say that it is only BJP which can keep India secure is complete rubbish,” he said.
“In fact it is the hardline and the boast and the exaggerated claims made by BJP which has aggravated tension on the border. People in border areas are living in fear that war may break out anytime. I have a suspicion that BJP wants a war. I don’t think they want peace. They want a war.” Answering another question, he said an assurance to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act was a demand from the Northeast and J&Kasmir and friendly political parties.
“It is also a reflection of the judgment delivered by Supreme Court in the Manipur enforced disappearance cases. We have said the immunity will be withdrawn only in three situations: enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture,” he said. He demanded to know who in the BJP defended such things. “They must specifically answer the question. Do you support enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture? Do you support immunity in these three situations?”
Asked if BJP’s assurances in its manifesto to extend the PM Kisan scheme to all farmers and pension for small farmers will overshadow the Congress’s Minimum Income Support Scheme (Nyay), he said it “will not.” The PM Kisan scheme gives a paltry amount to farmers, he said adding Rs 6,000 per year per family works to Rs 17 per day per family and the PM Kisan amount goes to absentee (landlord) and owner-farmers but not to the tenant-farmer, he said.
“So roughly 2/3rd of the actual tillers do not get any benefit from PM Kisan Scheme,” he said adding such nuances are understood by the common people and farmers in rural pockets. On the other hand, Congress’s Minimum Income Support Scheme is not targeting farmers alone but all the poor, he said. On varying estimates in sections of the media on the cost of the Nyay scheme with some pegging it at over 5 per cent of the GDP, he said, “We know what the estimate is”.
“Those who make these outlandish estimates neither understand mathematics nor economics. At its highest, when the scheme is fully rolled out, say in five years, when the entire five crore families are covered, it will cost Rs 3.6 lakh crore a year and that works out to, at today’s GDP (size of which is Rs 210 lakh crore) 1. 8 per cent.” In five years, the GDP will grow to about Rs 400 lakh crore and it will cost less than 1pc of the GDP then, he said.
On pre-poll surveys suggesting advantage NDA, he said, “I do not go by these surveys, because the sample size is small and the sampling method is not scientific”. Asked if aspects like scrapping the National Eligibility-cum Entrance Test and importance to autonomy of states in his party manifesto was an influence of the DMK over the Congress party, he said, “No”.
“We are a national party. What we have said applies to all states in the country. The Congress believes that the time has come to transfer some subjects from concurrent to the State list.” On NEET, he said complaints against it did not come from Tamil Nadu alone. Asked about Union minister Arun Jaitley stating that the BJP manifesto was aimed at “depleting poverty,” he said “look at their record”.
“Unemployment has increased and it is now at a 45-year-high of 6.1 per cent. That has aggravated poverty. Growth rate has declined,” he said. Farm sector is in distress and farm prices have declined in the last two years and real farm wages have not increased in the last 4 years according to the economic survey. “So by any measure, by any standard, poverty has not reduced under BJP. The BJP is incapable of adopting and implementing policies that will reduce poverty,” he alleged.
“The existing GST will go. We will put in place GST 2.0,” he said. On his partymen hailing him as the brain behind the Congress manifesto and a hero for them, he said, “The manifesto is the hero of this election, it is a collective effort not of party leaders, but of people.” Asked if he found any aspect in the BJP manifesto creditable, “Yes, they have continued our programmes, they have continued MGNREGA which is creditable… So wherever they have continued our programme why should I deny them credit?” he said. On the prospects of victory for his son in the Lok Sabha election from here, he said he is confident the DMK-Congress alliance will sweep the polls in Tamil Nadu.