Congress failed as responsible Opposition: Defence Minister

Ahmedabad: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the Congress in Gujarat has “failed” to play the role of a responsible opposition.

The BJP leader also targeted Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over the alleged stalling of projects in Gujarat during the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, and said he needs to answer certain questions related to that.

“Instead of replying to these questions, he keeps asking more questions. It is the responsibility of the opposition party to answer questions related to its government when it was in power at the Centre,” she told reporters in Ahmedabad.

Sitharaman is here to campaign for the BJP for the next month’s polls.

Sitharaman said the opposition party’s strength in the Gujarat assembly has gone down to 43 as the party has “failed to project an image of a responsible Opposition”.

“From 57 MLAs in 2012, the Congress is down to 43 MLAs today. The party was rejected four times by the people of Gujarat…What have you (the Congress) done as a responsible opposition party?” she asked.

Sitharaman rejected the Congress criticism of visits by Union ministers to poll-bound Gujarat to campaign for the BJP, saying no work of the government had been hampered due to their trips.

“We are party workers even when we are in the Cabinet. If he (Gandhi) says the work of the central government is hampered (due to our visits), then let him say so. We will say that the work there is going on without any hindrance.”

She criticised the Congress for taking its MLAs to a Bengaluru resort to prevent alleged poaching by the ruling BJP ahead of the Rajya Sabha election in July when parts of the state were reeling under floods.

She claimed the UPA government prevented a 32km national highway project in Gujarat on environmental ground.

Sitharaman asked Gandhi to question former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot as to why he wrote to the Centre opposing construction of a dam under the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s pet “Sujalam Sufalam” project for water harvesting.

Gehlot, now the party’s Gujarat election in-charge, “worked against the interest of Gujarat,” she said.

The Union minister said a Congress MP from Maharashtra had protested against the Narmada dam.

“He (Gandhi) asks questions instead of giving replies. He will ask questions to the entire world but not to his own MLAs, his own UPA government which created hurdles in construction of dams roads in Gujarat,” she said.

She attacked Gandhi for allegedly diverting Rs 2,000-crore party fund to the National Herald Trust.

On the Dokalam issue, the Congress leader should have met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to get details about the stand-off instead of meeting the Chinese ambassador, Sitharaman maintained.

It was an “irresponsible act” on the part of the Opposition party, the defence minister said.

Sitharaman said the Congress, when in power, did little to curb black money despite a Supreme Court orders on the issue.

The BJP leader said the Gujarat government has taken a slew of welfare measures for fishermen.

Gandhi earlier had an interaction with fishermen.

The measures include a Rs 11,000-crore ‘Sagar Khedut’ programme which is going on well, the minister said.

She said the NDA government has also announced projects related to marine product processing and export which will benefits the fishermen of Gujarat.