With the budget underlining his government’s rural pitch, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asked NDA MPs to bring maximum farmers under the new crop insurance policy while Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asserted that it will address agriculture distress.
At a meeting attended by MPs of BJP and its allies, except Shiv Sena, Jaitley spoke in detail about the budget, underscoring that it also seeks to give a fillip to economic growth by improving infrastructure and business and investment climate.
Sena MPs did not attend the meeting, saying they were not “informed” about it. “There was some communication gap,” its MP Anandrao Adsul said.
Jaitley told the MPs that the government was making all out efforts to created an “insured and pensioned” society and highlighted steps like health insurance and life cover announced for the masses, sources said.
BJP and its allies expect that the budget will help them blunt the opposition’s charge that the government had an “anti-farmer” bias at a time when assembly polls are due in five states, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal, in April-May. Crucial UP election is scheduled for next year.
The over one-hour meeting saw a brief intervention by Modi when he asked MPs to work towards taking the benefit of newly announced ‘Pradhan Manti Fasal Bima Yojana’ to farmers. He urged NDA MPs to take this as a challenge in their constituencies, the sources said.
BJP chief Amit Shah, who was also present, lauded the budget for its pro-farmer and pro-village thrust.
The JNU row and the debate in Parliament over it also found a mention with Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu giving an account of developments in JNU and Hyderabad Central University and urging the members to counter opposition’s charges.
He praised HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s “spirited reply” and members too joined in with “loud clapping”, they said.
Irani’s reply has sparked a row with opposition members giving notice for privilege motion against her, accusing her of “misleading” the House.
Briefing the NDA MPs on the business ahead in Parliament, Naidu said Modi would reply to the discussion on Motion of Thanks on the President’s address tomorrow in the Lok Sabha.
A presentation was also made by Naidu on various schemes related to farm sector, financial inclusion, social security, crop insurance, MUDRA Bank, Make in India, empowerment of Dalits, women, youth and rural development, the sources said.
He spoke about “significant outcomes” under 60 new initiatives of the government and added that the members would be briefed on another set of 60 such initiatives during the next meeting.
Referring to the opposition’s criticism that a large number of accounts opened under ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ were empty, he said 20.72 crore accounts were opened, of which over 10 crore accounts are in the name of women. They have total deposits of Rs33,379 crore, he was quoted as saying by sources.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters that the “MPs were very enthusiastic about the budget as it will empower villages, farmers and youth. It is dedicated to them and all-round development of the country.
“India has always been called an agrarian country but this is the first time the budget is being dedicated to farm sector.”
“We have heard about ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ and this budget is dedicated to ‘Jai Kisan’,” he said.
By 2019, he said, all villages will have electricity, water, irrigation and road connectivity, he said.
Asked about the opposition’s notice for privilege motion against HRD Minister Smriti Irani, he said BJP members had also brought privilege motion against some opposition members.
“Some parties have been defeated in the debate in Parliament on the issue. Now they are crying in frustration,” he said, in a dig at Congress and other opposition parties.