BJP leader Yashwant Sinha’s scathing criticism of the Modi regime’s economic policies has sent the Opposition into overdrive, with everybody from Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to former finance minister P Chidambaram citing his words to target the Union government.
Sinha stated in an Indian Express article, titled ‘I need to speak up now’, that it was his national duty to bring the “mess the finance minister had made of the economy” to the people’s notice. He then went on to lambast several key financial initiatives adopted by the central government, including demonetisation (“an unmitigated economic disaster”) and the Goods and Services Tax (”a badly conceived and poorly implemented move that has played havoc with businesses”), and slammed the manner in which the present dispensation’s policies allegedly ended up creating more unemployment instead of eliminating it.
Gandhi, a vocal critic of the Modi government’s economic strategies, was quick to latch on. Accusing the Modi government of ignoring the plight of the masses while extending favours to a select few, the Congress vice president told his audience at Chotila in Surendranagar district that the criticism he was going to cite comes not from him but a senior BJP leader. “He (Sinha) wrote that though many others in the party know our country is in deep trouble, no one is ready to speak up because they are afraid of Modiji,” said Gandhi. “The country is in a shambles because the BJP government never listens to farmers, youngsters, labourers, traders and women who actually run this country. The people in the BJP government listen only to businessmen, and then tell the citizens their own ‘mann ki baat’.”
The last part of his remark was a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly radio show.
The Congress vice president also shared Sinha’s article on Twitter with a cryptic reference to the state of India’s economy under the BJP. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your copilot and FM speaking. Please fasten your seat belts and take brace position. The wings have fallen off our plane,” he tweeted.
Chidambaram said Sinha only spoke the truth when he stated that the growth rate would have been 3.7% or less (instead of 5.7%) if the government had not changed the methodology for calculating the GDP in 2015. “Yashwant Sinha speaks ‘Truth to Power’. Will Power now admit the Truth that the economy is sinking?” he tweeted.
He also signalled his agreement with Sinha’s observation that raids by those in power have become the order of the day. “Instilling fear in the minds of the people is the name of the new game,” Chidambaram cited Sinha as saying, then added: “But the eternal truth is: No matter what Power does, Truth will ultimately prevail.”
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Sinha had “rightly spoken as to how an experimental finance minister and an autocrat Prime Minister can wreck India’s economy”, and that it was “time for the people of this country to seek relevant answers from Arun Jaitley as well as Narendra Modi”.
Stating that the facts and figures point at how the Indian “economy is in a state of flux”, he said: “The GDP has fallen from 9.2% to 5.7%. As per old (methodology of calculation), it will be about 3.5%… On top of that, there is Rs 2.67 lakh crore in revenue being collected by the government through taxes on petrol and diesel. The Prime Minister only speaks and the finance minister only mismanages the economy.”
The government, however, shrugged off Sinha’s critique. “The world acknowledges that India is its fastest-growing economy. No one should forget that. Our image at the international level is very strong,” home minister Rajnath Singh told reporters here.
Union minister Piyush Goyal was also quick to come to his government’s defence. “Some of the landmark reforms this government has brought in are unprecedented. Under the leadership of PM Modi, India has become the world’s fastest growing economy for three years in a row,” he said.