NEW DELHI/CHENNAI: A day after veteran BJP leader and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha wrote a scathing commentary blaming the Centre for the worsening state of the economy, a full-scale war of words broke out among leaders cutting across party lines.
As criticism continued to pour in on Wednesday, the government fielded ministers and experts from its think-tank to play defence. “The world acknowledges India as one of the fastest-growing economies. No one should forget it,” said Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Data released earlier this month showed India’s GDP to have slumped to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent in the April-June period, lagging behind China for the second quarter in a row. China clocked a 6.9 per cent growth rate in both Jan-March and April-June quarters.
“There is bound to be some uncertainty when some transformative changes are made, but it will pass,” reasoned Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, justifying the government’s demonetisation decision, which Sinha blamed for deceleration in growth. Earlier this month, former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan also said he had warned the government in ‘no uncertain terms’ that short-term economic costs of the note ban would outweigh its long-term benefits.
Niti Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar, for his part, assured the downturn had bottomed out and that growth would improve in the next two quarters. “This downward cycle of economic growth began in the last two years of the UPA II government, and in my view, has bottomed out,” he said. A few other BJP leaders, who did not want to be named, dismissed Sinha as a ‘spent force’.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley alone chose not to respond to Sinha’s commentary. In fact, Sinha had directly blamed the Finance Minister for the current crisis. “The Prime Minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His Finance Minister is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters,” Sinha had written.
Criticism of the Centre for mismanaging the economic situation continued on Wednesday. The sharpest of them came from none other than an RSS affiliate — Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh. The group blamed the government’s “faulty” advisers and “misguided reforms” as the key reasons for the economic slowdown and demanded a stimulus package for the labour-intensive sectors.
Dalal-street investors lose Rs 6 trillion
A total of Rs 6.18 lakh crore worth investor money got wiped off in the longest losing streak of 2017 till Wednesday on a sharp fall in the rupee, rebound in crude oil prices, persistent foreign outflows and a likeliness of one more rate hike by the US Federal Reserve this year. Data showed that the market capitalisation of all the BSE-listed companies stood at Rs 130,68,465 crore on Wednesday, which was Rs 6.18 lakh crore lower than Rs 136,76,465 lakh crore as on September 18.
Opposition leaders also piggybacked on Veteran BJP leader Yashwant Sinha to further their criticism of the government. “Ladies & Gentlemen, this is your copilot & FM speaking. Plz fasten your seat belts & take brace position. The wings have fallen off our plane,” Gandhi tweeted while sharing Sinha’s piece