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Who’s responsible for economic ruin: Priyanka Gandhi

Congress voices job and rupee worry, accuses BJP government of puncturing economy

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi

  • Published 1.09.19, 2:55 AM
  • Updated 1.09.19, 2:55 AM
"The GDP growth rate makes it clear that the BJP Government which blew the trumpet of achchhe din has punctured the economy. There is no growth, no jobs and the rupee is miserable. Tell us at least now — who is responsible for the destruction of the Indian economy?” Priyanka tweeted. PTI file photo

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has asked a simple question to the government a day after it was officially confirmed that the GDP had grown at its slowest pace in more than six years: “Tell us at least now — who is responsible for the destruction of the Indian economy?”

“The GDP growth rate makes it clear that the BJP Government which blew the trumpet of achchhe din has punctured the economy. There is no growth, no jobs and the rupee is miserable. Tell us at least now — who is responsible for the destruction of the Indian economy?” Priyanka tweeted.

That the economy is in trouble has not come as a revelation to the main Opposition party, which had been talking about the gravity of the crisis for the past one year.

The Congress built its parliamentary election campaign around this subject; weaving the economic discourse around jobs, farmers and demonetisation. The result was disastrous for the Congress as Prime Minister Narendra Modi succeeded in brushing the real concerns under the carpet with his fierce war rhetoric, but the Opposition party’s position stands vindicated now.

Senior leader Anand Sharma tweeted: “What we have said about the grave economic crisis in the country has been confirmed. The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister remained in denial, questioning the wisdom of the economists and the motives of the Congress.

“We are concerned about the collapse, loss of jobs, sharp decline in factory output, negligible capital investments and the huge mismatch in the budget. (We) advised the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister to stop making boastful claims and inform the country about the road map of the recovery of the Indian economy, which is in a downward spiral under your watch.”

Congress research department head Rajeev Gowda said demonetisation, the hasty implementation of the GST and alleged incompetence had continued “to show results”.

“The slump is not due to global issues. It is a pure man-made disaster,” he added.

Former minister Jairam Ramesh drew a film parallel. “Remember the hit movie QSQT — Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak? Now QSQT is synonymous with Quarter Se Quarter Tak. Two consecutive quarters of low GDP growth were sought to be buried by managing headlines,” the veteran leader tweeted.

The economy’s miserable plight has also exposed the infirmities of the BJP’s perceived political strategy of suppressing facts, manipulating data and using diversionary ploys to mislead the nation.

Not merely the Congress, but the majority of reputed economists and even a former finance minister of the BJP had warned against manipulation and suppression of data to hide the truth instead of sincerely tackling the crisis.

Former chief economic adviser to the Modi government, Arvind Subramanian, also pointed to overestimation of growth, arguing that the actual growth was about 4.5 per cent, not the projected 7 per cent, on the basis of a research paper published by the Centre for International Development at Harvard University.

“India must restore the reputational damage suffered to data generation in India across the board, from GDP to employment to government accounts,” Subramanian said.

Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and International Monetary Fund chief economist Gita Gopinath also raised concerns about India’s calculation of growth figures.

But the key functionaries of the government, including former finance minister Arun Jaitley, rejected these charges, claiming that the economy was on a sound footing and that official data reflected the true picture.

Ironically, the government forcefully contested the leaked National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data on employment only to accept its veracity after the election.

Although such substantive matters still do not become election issues in India and are often crushed under the force of emotive planks, the Congress had announced just before the Lok Sabha polls that the next government would investigate the use of false data to dress up economic growth, which the party called a huge scam.

Congress leader and former finance minister P. Chidambaram had said: “The NSSO shot a major hole in the CSO (Central Statistical Office) report. It is full of falsehood; 35 per cent of companies (mentioned in the database) don’t exist. It is all a bluff. What is the data you are using to fool the people that the GDP growth is higher than (what it was during) the UPA (tenure)? This is a scam.”

Prime Minister Modi had not taken kindly to his predecessor Manmohan Singh’s predication that demonetisation would whittle down India’s economic growth by 2 per cent — going to the extent of heaping scorn on foreign-educated economists — but the Congress senior’s comments now appear prophetic.

The Congress, which ceaselessly asked for a white paper on the economy after demonetisation, issued a booklet before the parliamentary elections that said: “The Indian economy has entered a disastrous phase of slowdown under the Modi-Jaitley jugalbandi as reflected by the consistent fall in quarterly growth of real GDP.”

The Congress also argued that those who defended demonetisation ignoring the havoc it had wreaked on the economy were actually “anti-national”.

Chidambaram had tweeted in April 2019: “The Prime Minister defends demonetisation. That sole ground is sufficient to throw out the BJP. No economist with any reputation has said a good word about demonetisation.”

The answer to Priyanka’s question about who is responsible for the ruin of the economy may be hidden in the decision-making process of the demonetisation, which remains a mystery.

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