After Arun Shourie and Ram Jethmalani, yet another Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran has spoken out against the Narendra Modi government. Speaking at an industry meet in Mumbai on Wednesday, former finance minister Yashwant Sinha questioned the government’s claims of economic recovery to be more “statistical” than real.
“We have recovered from the slowdown, at least statistically, if not really, because we have changed the norms,” Sinha said, calling for a debate on the issue and comparable figures of economic growth from previous years which can validate the claims of recovery.
“It cannot be that you prepare one year’s figures and say now you’re doing 7.4 per cent or eight per cent or 20 per cent,” Sinha said. “What are the new norms (of computation)? Even the Chief Economic Advisor of the government of India does not understand this. And we’ve put the same culprits (who initiated the change) to sit in judgement over this change.”
There are “serious issues” in the economy, which have to be addressed and the government can never say it has tackled all the pressing concerns, he said.
Sinha ridiculed the BJP’s decision to sideline those of its leaders who were above 75 years of age. Sinha said the government’s Make in India campaign was insufficient without better infrastructure. He criticised the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for keeping interest rates high and called for a better “working alliance” between the finance ministry and the central bank.
Sinha, in jest, referred to himself as among those above 75 years who have been considered “brain dead”, while answering a question on the difference between the previous Manmohan Singh government and the Narendra Modi government.
“All those who are above the age of 75 years were declared brain dead on May 26, 2014,” Sinha, 82, said. Sinha was the finance minister in the Chandra Shekhar government in 1991, and the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, as well. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, Sinha was routinely fielded by the BJP to punch holes in the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s claims on the economic performance of the UPA government.
But the former civil servant was denied a Lok Sabha ticket in the 2014 elections from Hazaribagh, which went to his son, present Minister of State for Finance Jayant. Neither has he been inducted in any policy-making role in the one year of the new government.
Apart from Sinha, leaders like Murli Manohar Joshi and L K Advani have also felt marginalised in the new scheme of things. Some others like Kalyan Singh have been given gubernatorial assignments. The BJP had then claimed this to be part of the process of generational change in its leadership.
Recently, Joshi had said the ‘Clean Ganga’ campaign of the Modi government was unlikely to be successful. Last week, Advani spoke at length about the possibility of a repeat of the Emergency, which opposition parties interpreted as his criticism of Prime Minister Modi.
Sinha also took a jibe at the government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ campaign, saying energies should be first focused on making the country a better place and all the other things will fall in place. To buttress his point, Sinha cited his decision to lower the duties on heavy road building equipment when he was the finance minister, which ensured that the highway work kick-started, which, he claimed, in turn helped the economy. “Make India and Make in India will follow,” he said.
Earlier this year, the government had adopted a change in the system of growth computation, which put the country’s economic growth to be among the fastest in the world, even ahead of China. The country grew 7.4 per cent in FY15 under the new system — as against the five per cent levels under the older system in FY14 — and is expected to close in on the 8 per cent mark for FY16.
Sinha also criticised the stance of the RBI in keeping interest rates high, blaming its “measly” cuts for the banks’ reluctance to pass on the benefits of the cumulative 0.75 per cent cut.