On Friday afternoon, a little over 36 hours after his release from 106 days of imprisonment, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram will be in Ranchi, the capital of poll-bound Jharkhand, to talk about the economic slowdown.
He may refer to recent economic data, particularly the GDP numbers, as he did at a press conference in the national capital on Thursday. “Nothing sums up the state of the economy better than the following series of numbers: 8, 7, 6.6, 5.8, 5 and 4.5. Those are the quarterly growth rates of GDP in the last six quarters,” he said at the Congress headquarters. Chidambaram said the third and fourth quarters of 2019-20 are not likely to be any better.
However, in Ranchi, more than the numbers, Chidambaram will speak about increasing poverty. During his time in jail, Chidambaram had taken to give free legal advice to his fellow inmates, several of whom were from Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
The increase in levels of poverty in these states has been sharper than in the rest of the country in the last few years. “Just talk to people, go to the mandis, and go to housewives...Even better, spend a few days where I was, and you will know what is the position in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.”
Senior party leaders, who have interacted with him since he came out of jail, said they find him a different man. It was evident in the press conference. Usually a master of cold logic and numbers, Chidambaram turned visibly emotional as he spoke about the spate of rapes across the country.
“Yesterday, in one newspaper, I found six incidents of rape. In one paper, one day, six incidents of rape and rage, shameful, shameful that a section of our people think that they can get away these acts of impunity. So, complete breakdown of law and order in many parts of India. What is the police doing? Where is the fear of law? Shameful!” the former union home minister said.
When asked if he felt bitter that he was a victim of “vendetta politics”, he said he felt, after having spent this time in jail, that he was “a better man”. When asked if it was true he lost five kilos in jail, he said: “I was always strong in spirit, I am now stronger. I have also become stronger bodily. Let me give you a hint — sleeping on a wooden board without a pillow strengthens your neck and spine and back. My spine is stronger, my neck is stronger and my head is stronger.”
"Every institution is gripped by fear and the media is no exception... Please shed fear, please speak truth to power," he said.