Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

PM Modi’s jibe at Dr Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was correct when he said in Rajya Sabha today that former PM Dr Manmohan Singh was part of the ruling establishment for nearly 35 years, as RBI Governor, as Finance Minister and as Prime Minister, and yet he remained unstuck in the era of scams. But the manner in which Modi made a jibe by saying that Dr Singh knew the art of taking a bath wearing a raincoat, was something like hitting below the belt, even though it was made in jest. One can question Dr Singh’s capabilities on governance, one can rue his compulsions, but none can raise a finger about his honesty. It is also true that Dr Singh had made a caustic remark in the last session by describing the demonetization move as a ‘monumental blunder’. Normally, Dr Singh never uses such harsh words.

The political scene in UP

The very fact that Samajwadi Party’s maverick leader Azam Khan has indirectly compared Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Ravana clearly indicates that development issues have been put on the backburner by most of the politicians in Uttar Pradesh. Politicians of all hues are presently engaged in running down their rivals as the electoral cauldron gets hotter in UP. BJP leaders have been raising the Ram temple issue, but their party president Amit Shah told me at the Aap Ki Adalat show last weekend that the courts will decide the Ram temple issue, and the promise of building a Ram temple has been there in the party manifesto every time. At the other end is BSP supremo Mayawati, who has her own solid vote bank, but her speeches at the rallies indicate that her self-confidence has been somewhat dented. Mayawati is now promising that she would not build parks, memorials and statues any more and would concentrate on development. As far as the Samajwadi Party-Congress combine is concerned, their rallies have been gathering good numbers, and their workers are now infused with fresh vigour, but the ouctome remains to be seen, when votes will be counted on March 11. Meanwhile, party patriarch Mulayam Singh, for the first time in 50 years of his public life, is completely out of the nitty-gritty of electoral battle, though he has decided to address a few rallies in support of his son. It appears, Mulayam Singh has now decided to accept the harsh political realities as they exist now, mainly because of his old age.

Jaitley’s budget speech raises questions on tax evaders

This year’s Union Budget was pathbreaking on several counts – one, it was presented a month before the due date, two, Railway Budget was merged in Union Budget, and three, the Finance Minister did not mention each and every item on which duties were being reduced or raised. Arun Jaitley confined himself to broad policy decisions. But the facts that he mentioned about tax evaders in India were revealing. Jaitley said, Out of 130 crore Indians, only 3.7 crore individuals filed income tax returns, 99 lakh people showed their income below the exemption limit of Rs 2.5 lakh, meaning a little over 2.5 crore people pay income tax. Out of these, 1.95 crore people show income between Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, 52 lakh show income between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, and only 24 lakh people show income above Rs 10 lakh. Out of the 76 lakh individuals who declared income above Rs 5 lakh, 56 lakhs were in the salaried class. The number of people showing income more than Rs 50 lakh in the entire country is only 1.72 lakh. He contrasted this with the fact that in the last five years, more than 1.25 crore cars were sold in India, and more than 2 crore people flew abroad in 2015. These facts will surely make the people of India think about tax evaders. But to expect that tax evaders will disclose their real income and pay tax, is presently a tall order. Because most of the people feel once they file returns they will be questioned by income tax. Now the Finance Minister has promised transparency in assessment of Income tax , it will take a while for public to accept it.

Hafiz Saeed’s house arrest is a sham

It is true that Pakistan put Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed under house arrest on Monday because of US pressure, but there are many people inside Pakistan who believe this action is only meant to hoodwink the world. Earlier, after the Mumbai terror attacks, Hafiz Saeed was put under house arrest. Pakistan, under US pressure, had even put restrictions on telecast of Hafiz Saeed’s speeches, but this lasted only for a few weeks. This terror mastermind openly spews venom on Pakistan’s news channels, addresses meetings in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore in the name of ‘defence of Pakistan’, openly takes responsibility for terror attacks inside India, but Pakistan chooses to overlook all these acts. The common assumption now is that, this house arrest, too, will be a repeat of earlier such actions. Pakistan government will then take a plea that it does not have sufficient evidence to nail Hafiz Saeed, and the Pakistani courts will allow him to go scot-free.