Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday reacted strongly to the Congress’s allegation that the government was stealing the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) reserves. She said former Congress president Rahul Gandhi should have spoken to the leaders of his party who have earlier served as finance ministers before hurling such charges.
The RBI central board on Monday decided to transfer Rs 1.76 trillion to the central government. Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday hit out at the government over the record transfer. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Sitharaman were “clueless” about solving the “self-created economic disaster”. He also accused them of stealing the RBI’s money.
“Stealing from the RBI won’t work — it’s like stealing a Band-Aid from the dispensary and sticking it on a gunshot wound,” he said, using the hashtag #RBILooted.
Sitharaman responded to this on the sidelines of a meeting on the goods and services tax in Pune.
“The Congress should have consulted its finance minister and seniors before making these allegations regarding the RBI. Yet, they have become consummate in making such allegations of stealing and I do not want to pay much heed to this,” she said.
Sitharaman also said questioning the credibility of the RBI, which had constituted the Bimal Jalan committee on determining the excess capital, was a “worrying” sign.
“The committee had eminent people on it and making any allegations like this is outlandish,” Sitharaman said, adding the government has not decided how to use the windfall from the RBI.
The Bharatiya Janata Party also hit back at Rahul Gandhi. “He is obsessed with stealing. That is where his expertise lies and this was visible during the tenure of the Congress-led UPA government. Therefore many Congress leaders are mired in corruption scandals and the Congress has become synonymous with corruption," BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said.
According to some experts, government has accounted for Rs 90,000 crore surplus from the RBI in the Budget and the money can be used to prop up sagging growth.
At the time of the constitution of the Jalan panel, former chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian had said the money should be used for specific purposes such as bank recapitalisation.
The excess capital was one of the key issues which had led to the resignation of former governor Urjit Patel in December, and his deputy Viral Acharya in last month, had voiced concerns on the government raiding the balance sheet of the central bank.
Constitution of the committee was the first major decision taken by Governor Shaktikanta Das on his appointment in December 2018 following Patel’s resignation.