ngress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday lauded senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha’s stinging critique of the state of Indian economy and said he was absolutely correct when he wrote that “instilling fear in the minds of the people is name of the new game”.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters here, Chidambaram said the Congress has assiduously exposed the “many weaknesses and a terrible mismanagement” of the economy.
“We are happy that Yashwant Sinha has echoed our criticism,” said the former Minister, who prefaced the statement with remarks that “it is not often that from this platform the principal opposition party will welcome a statement of a veteran leader of the ruling party”.
“I warmly applaud the article of Yashwant Sinha, Finance Minister in the Vajpayee government between 1998-2003, because the article speaks the truth about the economy,” he said.
Chidambaram said Sinha’s views were not different from what MPs belonging to the BJP and other parties “have told us since many months privately and in soft whispers”.
He said it was a sad commentary on the times that MPs were afraid to reflect what they see and hear around them, especially in their constituencies. “Yet we call ourselves a free country.”
Chidambaram said it is not only MPs who have become silent. “We have witnessed numerous examples of news reports and articles being pulled out before publication; of television interviews being taken off air; of scheduled talks at universities being cancelled; of social activists being investigated on trumped up charges; of editors and reporters being unceremoniously sacked; of academics and scholars being threatened; of judges being indirectly punished; and, most tragically, of authentic voices of the people being silenced by brutal killings.”
“Yashwant Sinha is therefore absolutely correct when he writes that ‘instilling fear in the minds of the people is the name of the new game’.”
Chidambaram said Sinha was spot on when he said the BJP-NDA government got an unprecedented oil bonanza that was wasted; that private investment had shrunk as never before in two decades; that industrial production had all but collapsed; that exports had dwindled; that demonetisation proved to be an unmitigated disaster; that a badly conceived and poorly implemented GST played havoc with businesses and sunk many of them; that countless millions lost their jobs with hardly any new opportunities coming the way of the new entrants to the labour market; and that the growth rate of 5.7 per cent is actually 3.7 per cent or less.
He said the Congress had for nearly 18 months highlighted these “very grave weaknesses in the economy”.
“We were told, in effect, to shut up. We were the first to speak up. We did not shut up and we shall not shut up,” Chidambaram said, recalling that the Congress wanted to raise a debate on the flawed implementation of the GST and the state of the economy but the government made sure that the debate was not allowed.
“The Congress party will continue to speak loudly and boldly on the disastrous path on which the country is being taken by the BJP government.
“I ask how long will the government hide behind the rhetoric of the Prime Minister and the slogans of the party? It is a small mercy that we no longer hear the slogan ‘Acche din aane walay hain’. As I travel around the country, what I hear is ‘Acche din tou aaye nahin, ye bure din kab jaayenge’.”
He appealed to people, especially those knowledgeable about the economy, to speak and write without fear.
Replying to questions, Chidambaram said at least a dozen BJP MPs have “spoken to us” in the Central Hall and in committees about the state of the economy. “Nobody dares to ask questions. An MP from Maharashtra who raised questions was asked to shut up. In this atmosphere of fear, if Sinha speaks up then he is speaking truth.”
To Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s defence of the government’s handling of the economy, Chidambaram said “Thank God, they are not saying India is the fastest growing economy these days. Now they are saying, it is one of the fastest growing economies.”