New Delhi, February 10: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday alleged that the Congress-led UPA government did not capitalise on the positive economic environment that it inherited from the Vajpayee government and there was "ill-targeted, reckless fiscal policy, ill targeted subsidies and wasteful expenditure for political gains".

"Gur ko gobar karna Congress ki mastery hai (Congress is expert in frittering away advantage)," she said in her reply to the debate on White Paper On Indian Economy in Rajya Sabha. The paper seeks to compare 10 years of the UPA government with 10 years of the JP-led government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. White Paper on Indian Economy: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Slams Opposition Parties in Lok Sabha, Says 'White Paper Is Serious Document, Everything Is With Evidence' (Watch Video).

She said the government did not bring the White Paper earlier so that there is no adverse impact on the economy in terms of investor sentiment as the "entire world was using the term 'Fragile Five' for our economy." "Today, when we are bringing the White Paper, it is because we have brought the economy to a certain level and that level gives us the confidence that we are able to now say that within the next few years, and that is why the PM keeps saying 'In my third term surely the economy will reach third rank.' This is not without reason," she said.

The minister said that the economy which the UPA government inherited was "like a cloth on a thorny bush which was full of malpractices, which is reflected in the White Paper". "Repeatedly there are figures thrown at us - inflation is this, inflation is that.They have mastery over 'Gud ko gobar karna'. In 2004, when PM Vajpayee's NDA Government handed it over to you with inflation below four per cent what did you do with it? Ill-targeted reckless fiscal policy, ill-targeted subsidies, wasteful expenditure, all done for political gains," she alleged. 'White Paper' vs 'Black Paper': Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Attacks Congress, Says 'They Could Not Handle the Global Financial Crisis' (Watch Video).

"If this was the condition of the economy which the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi inherited in 2014, did we sit on it? No, we straightway got into action. We carefully extricated that cloth by removing it from every thorn without damaging it. It required a very delicate handling. And today, our economy is in the Top five and will soon be among the Top three," she added.

Sitharaman said the UPA government says they brought Aadhar, DBT, Jan Aushadi Kendras and want credit for it. "I would like highlight few things about Jan Aushadi Kendras which benefit the poor and middle class. Number of Jan Aushadhi Kendras, which were started during the UPA era in 2008, reached only 80 in 2014. The number of Jan Aushadhi Kendras reached 10,000 in December 2023 & common citizens are benefitting out of medicines which are available at affordable prices. More than 1,800 medicines are available in these Kendras and are helping poor & middle class. Prime Minister personally monitors programmes and projects and their progress through the PRAGATI portal by holding video conferences with officers even at the district-level," she said.

"Up to the 43rd edition of PRAGATI, 348 pending projects worth Rs 17.36 lakh crores have been reviewed, their progress is happening and they are coming to a conclusion. This kind of effort never happened earlier during the UPA era," she added.

The minister said that in AICC's session in Jaipur, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted that "handling inflation is a shortcoming of the UPA government". "And that Congress is lecturing us now on how to manage inflation." Sitharaman referred to Congress leader KC Venugopal's remarks after BJP members accused Congress of not being supportive of Bharat Ratna to former Prime Minister Charan Singh.

"KC Venugopalji asked who made Chaudhary Charan Singh the PM? It's the people who make PMs! I hope the Congress party isn't living in a myth that they make a PM or reject a PM. Truth is, people have rejected the Congress," Sitharaman said.

"In 1979, Indira Gandhi's Congress decided to support Chaudhary Charan Singh ji & within 24 days he resigned as the Prime Minister. Why? Indira Gandhi's Congress withdrew support from him. Charan Singhji said that he resigned because he wasn't ready to be 'blackmailed' into withdrawing cases against Indira Gandhi.... Chaudhary Charan Singh, while resigning said, "The country wouldn't have forgiven us if, we had for the sake of remaining in office, agreed to withdraw prosecutions against persons responsible for atrocities during the Emergency."

She also lauded decision to give Bharat Ratna to former Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao "I am grateful that our government has honoured former Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao Ji with Bharat Ratna. 1991 reforms couldn't have been introduced as they were if he hadn't been the Prime Minister. Congress party didn't even have the gratefulness to recognise him even after his death. The pictures and videos of the gate of the Congress party's headquarters closing, when his corpse was passing, will bring tears to anyone's eyes. Former PM PV Narsimha Rao Ji had served and sacrificed for the party but because of prejudice, he was ignored even after his death," she said.

"Congress is the party under whose rule the Prime Ministers gave Bharat Ratna to themselves. Nehruji and Indiraji gave Bharat Ratna to themselves. They didn't bother about others. They certainly didn't bother about BR Ambedkar. So, this party shouldn't shed crocodile tears or on record say that they welcome the Bharat Ratna being given to Chaudhary Charan Singhji and PV Narsimha Raoji. Now when PM Modi confers them with Bharat Ratna, they (Congress) can't even gulp it...

"They brought Chaudhary Charan Singh Ji down in 1979. They're alright with asking his grandson to go away but the fact is that they had no respect for Chaudhary Charan Singhji," Sitharaman alleged. She also talked of initiatives taken by government in the northeast. "Second Railway Station in the northeast. In all our independent India's history, a second railway station in the northeast when PM Modi comes in. After the first one, you (Congress) forgot the northeast. At least you remember that Dr Manmohan Singh himself was from Assam, you should have worked there a little...".