New Delhi, Jun 30 (PTI) The Congress on Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation was 'much ado about nothing' and belied their expectations, but BJP hailed the extension of PMGKAY saying it showed the government's commitment to the welfare of the poor amid the coronavirus crisis.
The Congress hit out at the PM for failing to address the key issues of giving China a strong statement on the border standoff and taking firm steps to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The Left parties said extending the PMGKAY scheme is not enough as the quantity should have been doubled to prevent hunger deaths.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a jibe at the prime minister with an urdu couplet -- 'Tu idhar udhar ki na baat kar, ye bataa ki kaafila kaise lutaa' -- for not mentioning China in his address.
Ahead of PM's address, Gandhi in a video message said the government should transfer Rs 7,500 into the bank accounts of the poor immediately, a demand raised by him and his party numerous times. Gandhi also asked Modi when and how will he throw out the Chinese army from Indian territory.
In his address, PM Modi announced that the PMGKAY, a free ration scheme, would be extended for 80 crore people till the November end.
Under the scheme, initially rolled out for three months, five kg of wheat or rice and one kg of pulses will be given free of cost to the poor every month.
Underlining that Modi is leading the country with alertness and sensitivity, BJP chief J P Nadda said the PM should be lauded for saving lives and livelihood amid this pandemic. He described the extension of PMGKAY as a visionary step.
'Prime Minister Modi stood like a rock at the time of this crisis and had the courage to transform challenges into opportunities. We are grateful to him for extending the free supply of foodgrains to the poor in the country amid this pandemic till Diwali and Chhath puja,' Nadda said in a tweet.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also attributed the extension of PMGKAY to Modi's visionary leadership and thanked farmers and honest taxpayers, saying their hard work and dedication were helping the benefits reach the poor.
'The extension of Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana shows the sensitivity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the millions of poor and his commitment for their welfare. Nobody slept hungry in a large country like India during the Corona period, thanks to Modiji's foresight and successful implementation of the scheme,' Shah said in a tweet.
Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate accused PM Modi of doing headline management and said Modi did not look the 'enemy' in the eye, which was expected of him after a bloody standoff with China in Ladakh on June 15.
'Our biggest expectation was that the PM will gather the courage and the will to look at China in the eye and reply to the enemy. Take the enemy head-on and make a very strong statement against what China is doing. But the PM once again shied away,' she said.
The Congress has been demanding Modi to name China as 'aggressor' and send a strong message to it after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clash with Chinese troops. On Monday, the government banned 59 mobile applications with Chinese links, including TikTok and UC Browser, saying they were prejudicial to sovereignty, integrity and security of the country.
'Bowing to people's protests, the Modi government has extended the provision of 5 kg grains free for 80 crore people for next 5 months. This falls far short of the required 10 kg per month for 6 months to all needy to prevent hunger deaths,' CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.
'After this announcement extra food grains allocation was only 26 (lakh tonnes) in April & 29 lakh tonnes in May... Modi must release money from the thousands of crores of rupees collected in the private trust fund to combat Covid for free provision of 10 kg grains per month for 6 months to all needy,' he said.
CPI general secretary D Raja asked the government why it was not addressing the issue of universalising the Public Distribution System. He said it took a long time for the PM to understand the devastating effects of the virus.
Congress leader Shrinate said, 'Despite all the euphoria and the massive build up, in his 17 minute long speech Shri Narendra Modi made, what at best is an administrative decision', which could have been done by issuing a notification.
She said many had hoped the prime minister would talk about substantive steps to contain the pandemic and putting the economy back on track, but he did not. 'Neither did the prime minister talk about job losses and wage cuts,' she said, 'nor did he announce the much needed relief to migrant labourers and the poor.' Urging Modi to ensure a cash transfer of Rs 7,500 to the poor, she said he should keep 'raj dharma' and national interest in mind in doing so.
'There was massive euphoria and build up. At the end of it, the prime minister's address was 'much ado about nothing. We had great expectations from the prime minister. Once again he belied our expectations,' she said.
The congress leader said it seems the top priority of the PM is the Bihar elections. 'The government has to get out of headline management and instead address the core issues that plague our country. Decisive steps and not empty words are required to deal with both corona and China,'she said. PTI SKC ASG JTR ABH ABH