New Delhi: Government on Monday hit back at Rahul Gandhi for his 'Fair and Lovely' jibe, saying it reflects a "racist mindset", even as it sought support of Congress for passage of bills like GST and bankruptcy with a contention that India can grow faster in "absence of obstructionism".
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also responded to attack on the government over Vijay Mallya leaving the country amidst loan default, saying there was a "question" as to whether the "legal system" had acted as a "hurdle" in loan recovery and enabled the "escape" of the defaulter.
Replying to a debate in Lok Sabha on the General Budget 2016-17, he also rejected demands for rollback of 1 percent excise duty on jewellery saying it was in preparation for unveiling of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which hopefully will "come soon".
The House later passed the Appropriation Bill completing the first phase of the Budgetary exercise for 2016-17.
While talking about black money, Jaitley referred to the 'Fair and Lovely' comment made by Gandhi while speaking in the House last week.
Without naming the Congress Vice President, the finance minister said, "I have no problem with this phrase.. But this phrase is politically incorrect. It shows a racist mindset that what is not fair is not lovely."
He went on to add, "Worldover people frown on use of such a phrase. In any case I will pass it off as ignorance."
Gandhi had used the phrase while alleging that the government had brought the blackmoney disclosure scheme in the Budget to enable conversion of black money into white.
Jaitley insisted that the government's proposal was not an amnesty scheme, Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) or any concession, unlike the schemes brought by other governments earlier.
Noting that the global environment was a challenging one, the finance minister said the country needs to rise above party lines to maintain the distinction of being the fastest growing large economy.
"We compare ourselves with global standards, we are doing good. But if we compare ourselves with own standards we can do better in a more helpful global environment and domestically in absence of an obstructive environment," he said.
Seeking support of the Congress, he said "the country needs bankruptcy law. Hope the joint committee will soon give its report so that it gives the right of transfer the management. So that incompetent can exit, jobs are saved and more competent can take on the businesses".
Talking about the blackmoney disclosure scheme brought by the government in the Budget, Jaitley said it was unlike the earlier VDIS or black bond scheme which favoured the black money holders.
Under the proposed scheme a declarant will have to pay 30 percent tax and 15 percent surcharge and penalty, he said.
The finance minister referred to the VDIS of 1997 and said under it, no interest, no penalty was imposed and the declarants were permitted to value their assets at 1987 price.
Similar concessions were available in the black bond scheme, he said.
"That is why I said that it is out of ignorance that such a phrase (is used by Rahul)... It is also borne out of ignorance of your own history," he told the Congress benches.
Jaitley, in his 2016-17 Budget, has announced a disclosure scheme under which a four-month compliance window ending 30 September will be provided to people to declare undisclosed domestic assets and income and come clean by paying 45 percent tax and penalty.
"This is not an amnesty or VDIS. If you have any undeclared asset today, you have to declare it at today's market value and pay 50 percent over the tax. So it is not amnesty, VDIS or concession," Jaitley said.
The United Front government, during which P Chidambaram served as finance minister, had given an affidavit in the Supreme Court that it was the last amnesty scheme of the government.
The government gave the affidavit thinking "after me the deluge", Jaitley said, adding "sarkar toh chali gayi, lekin Bharat toh jivit rehene wala tha (Government did change but India had to live on)... What was the need for any government to bind any future government?"
The VDIS, which was described by many as unethical, immoral and improper was challenged in the Supreme Court.
"The 1997 scheme was commented upon as being discriminatory upon an honest tax payer because their was no penalty because it was valued at a 10-year-old value. As a result most declarants were either house wives or minor children," he said.