Indian PM Modi hits out at opposition over stalled reforms

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lashed out at opposition lawmakers, accusing them of stalling reforms aimed at helping the poor.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lashed out at opposition lawmakers, accusing them of stalling reforms aimed at helping the poor.PHOTO: EPA

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at the main opposition Congress party on Thursday, accusing it of "disrupting" parliament and stalling key reforms aimed at lifting millions out of poverty.

Mr Modi's government enjoys a comfortable majority in the lower house of parliament but needs opposition support to push through laws in the upper house, where it does not have the numbers.

Raucous scenes during the most recent parliamentary session saw heckling and rowdy protests from opposition lawmakers prevent the passage of several pieces of legislation.

Stalled bills include a key national goods and services tax - which the Congress party had supported when in power - and a proposed bankruptcy law.

"Our government is trying to take steps for the poor. There are many old, outdated laws and many new laws are needed," Mr Modi told thousands attending a public rally in Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi.

"But it is our misfortune that the Indian parliament, where laws are made, is not being allowed to function," he added.

India's parliament is notoriously rowdy, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) employed similar tactics to disrupt the former government before coming to power last year.

Mr Modi had taken a conciliatory stance during the last parliament session, hoping to win the opposition's support for his government's reforms.

But on Thursday, he went on the offensive, urging Congress to demonstrate "responsibility towards the people," who elected them as lawmakers in the world's largest democracy.

"Those who have been rejected by the people... are not allowing the parliament to function," he said. "(They) have a responsibility to not put their political interests before national interests," Mr Modi said, referring to Congress.

He asked the party to make a new year's resolution "to not disrupt the parliament".

In August, more than 20,000 Indians including prominent business leaders signed an online petition urging lawmakers to end weeks of rowdy protests that had paralysed parliament.

Congress, the party of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, slumped to its worst-ever performance last May as the BJP stormed to office with the strongest mandate in three decades.

Figures released this November show India's economy grew by 7.4 per cent year-on-year in the last quarter, outperforming China.

The government says that another wave of legislative reforms are urgently needed to push for an even higher growth rate in the country.