Yashwant Sinha, ex-finance minister, attacks PM Modi, Arun Jaitley on economy

Yashwant Sinha, ex-finance minister, attacks PM Modi, Arun Jaitley on economy

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New Delhi: Arun Jaitley has made a mess, the senior BJP leader wrote as he attacked the Narendra Modi government over slowdown in the economy.

“Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His finance minister (Arun Jaitley) is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters.”

That is how senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha ended his scathing op-ed column he wrote for The Indian Express on the massive slowdown hitting the Indian economy.

Sinha wrote that he would be “failing in (his) national duty” if he did not speak up right now. He also claims that his views reflect the “sentiments of a large number of people in the BJP and elsewhere” and that these people aren’t speaking up “out of fear”.

Economy is turning out to be main headline in Modi’s India following depressing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures in the last quarter, when, at 5.7 per cent, it had hit its three-year low. Earlier this week, the government reconstituted the 5-member Economic Advisory Council, which Sinha calls the “fiva Pandavas (who) are expected to win the new Mahabharata for us”.

Sinha calls the controversial demonetisation decision taken in November 2016 by Modi as “an unmitigated economic disaster” and says the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a “hurriedly-conceived and poorly-implemented” policy.

Sinha, a respected economist and former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, is also considered one of the best finance ministers in recent times. His son Jayant Sinha won the 2014 elections from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand and is currently Minister of State for Civil Aviation in Modi’s cabinet.

ATTACK ON ‘SUPERMAN’ JAITLEY

In his piece, Sinha reserves the most scathing words for Arun Jaitley, calling him a “lucky finance minister, luckier than any in the post-liberalisation era”. He admits that Jaitley is believed to be the “best and the brightest” in the Narendra Modi government, and that the current finance minister’s “indispensability” was established when he was given four ministries after the BJP’s landslide victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Jaitley still retains three of those ministries (with Defence now being handled by Nirmala Sitharaman), Yashwant Sinha notes. But, not even “a superman like Jaitley” can do justice to the task of multi-tasking between a portfolio that includes the demanding finance ministry, Sinha writes.

But Jaitley has made a “mess” of it, Sinha writes at the beginning of his piece.

He squandered a golden opportunity when he took over the management of the Indian economy, Sinha goes on to essentially say. “Depressed global crude oil prices placed at his (Jaitley) disposal lakhs of crores of rupees,” Sinha says. “But the oil bonanza has been wasted and the legacy problems (stalled projects and bad loans) have not only been allowed to persist, they have become worse.”

SINHA SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: OPPOSITION

A number of Opposition leaders from the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Left joined Sinha in slamming the Modi government over its performance in economy.

“Yashwant Sinha speaks Truth to Power. Will Power now admit the Truth that economy is sinking?” tweeted another former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram.

“Very hard hitting article by Shri Yashwant Sinha ji,” said Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal on Twitter.

Incidentally, Sinha is not the first from the BJP to raise a red flag over the slump. BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy and former Union Minister Arun Shourie have also attacked the government and warned it of dire consequences if the mess in the economy is not contained.