BJP, Congress lock horns over Supreme Court judgment on PM Cares
Bolstered by a Supreme Court decision that money collected by the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM Cares) fund need not be transferred to the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday launched a fresh broadside against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, accusing him of trying to weaken the fight against Covid-19.
A three-judge bench headed by justice Ashok Bhushan held on Tuesday that the establishment of the PM Cares Fund in March had been necessitated by Covid-19 and the requirement of financial resources to deal with the pandemic, and that the court cannot object to it.
Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, addressing a press conference at the BJP headquarters, said the PM Cares Fund was a registered public fund headed by the prime minister and it has been created to tackle Covid-like emergencies.
Attacking the Congress, Prasad alluded to allegations that when Manmohan Singh was prime minister, money was given to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which is a family foundation. “The foundation has also got support from China. The RGF even recommended that Indian markets be opened for Chinese products,” he added.
“We have completed six years today and are in the seventh year. We work honestly and no one has been able to cast any aspersion that is backed by facts. Some people merely keep saying things, that is another matter. The Modi government works honestly and this reflects in the PM Cares Fund,” said Prasad.
He alleged that Rahul Gandhi had tried to weaken the country’s unity in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. When the nation saluted those at the front-lines of the fight against the coronavirus disease, Gandhi mocked them, Prasaid claimed. When the lockdown was imposed, he questioned it.
“I regret to say in view of the conduct of Rahul Gandhi right from day one he never spared any opportunity to weaken the national resolve in the fight against corona,” Prasad said.
He said the PM Cares Fund was a transparent fund, out of which Rs 2,000 crore had been sanctioned for procuring ventilators alone. As many as 50,000 ventilators were provided to take care of the emergency needs of patients, the highest since Independence. Around Rs 1,000 crore was given to states for the welfare of migrant workers and Rs 100 crore for vaccine development, the minister said.
Responding to a question, Prasad said there would be an audit of the PM Cares Fund. Every detail is on the website and the country will be informed of each detail, he said.
BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda also hailed the Supreme Court verdict.
“The verdict by Supreme Court on PM Cares is a resounding blow to the nefarious designs of Rahul Gandhi & his band of ‘rent a cause’ activists. It shows that the truth shines despite the ill intent and malicious efforts of the Congress party and its associates,” Nadda said on Twitter.
He wrote in another tweet: “Rahul Gandhi’s rants have been repeatedly dismissed by the common man who has overwhelmingly contributed to PM Cares. With the highest court also pronouncing its verdict, will Rahul & his ‘rent a cause’ activist army mend their ways or embarrass themselves further?”
The Congress expressed disappointment over the verdict. Its chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Supreme Court let go an opportunity to bring transparency to the fund.
“The judgment is a body blow to transparency and accountability of government to people. It marks a sad letter day for responsibility and answerability of rulers to the electorate and remind them that they are not ‘Monarchs’ but ‘servants of the people’,” he tweeted.
“SC scrupulously believed that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’. Today, the court, in a departure from that tradition, passed up an opportunity to demand answers on the PM Cares Fund that seeks public money but plays by its own opaque & murky rules,” Surjewala wrote in another tweet.
At a virtual press conference, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said the ruling was a jolt to all the people who were seeking transparency.
“This is not Narendra Modi’s money. This is not Narendra Modi’s individual fund; this is the Prime Minister’s fund, meant for the people, who demand transparency. The people want to know -- where did you get the money from, where have you spent it?” he said.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had on Monday tweeted “PM CARES for Right To Improbity,” tagging a news report which alleged that the Prime Minister’s Office had denied an RTI application seeking information on the fund.