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Jaitley-Sinha slugfest: BJP big guns duel over state of Indian economy

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jaitley-bookHas the Indian economy slowed down? If so, should Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization be demonized? These are all-important questions that have sparked a war of words between two of BJP’s bigwigs.

The verbal duelling between India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and ex-Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha shows no signs of abating, with Mr. Sinha hitting back at Mr. Jaitley over his “job applicant at 80” jibe. “If I was a job applicant, he (Jaitley) would not be there in the first place,” Mr Sinha said.

What set off the political slugfest is a hard-hitting column by the former two-time Finance Minister and BJP veteran Mr. Sinha, criticizing the economic policies of the Modi government, and launching a personal attack on Mr. Jaitley’s poor handling of the economy. “I would be failing in my national duty if I did not speak up even now against the mess the Finance Minister has made of the economy,” he wrote. “The Prime Minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His Finance Minister is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters.”

Arun Jaitley’s Defence

Responding to the article, Mr. Jaitley, speaking at the launch of India at 70, Modi at 3.5 – Capturing India’s transformation under Narendra Modi, by Bibek Debroy and Ashok Malik, took a swipe at Mr. Sinha saying, “Probably, a more appropriate title for your book would have been ‘India at 70, Modi at 3.5 and a job applicant at 80’.” Without taking names he further said he did not “have the luxury as yet of being a former Finance Minister; nor do I have the luxury of being a former Finance Minister who’s turned a columnist.” Mr. Jaitley also took a swipe at Mr. Sinha for “acting in tandem” with Congress veteran and ex-Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

‘Bold leadership, end of policy paralysis’

Repudiating gloom-and-doom narratives about the Indian economy, Mr Jaitley spoke eloquently about how demonetization has boosted personal tax collection and paved the way for a cashless economy. Robustly defending the achievements of the Modi government, Mr Jaitley underlined that its approach towards decision making has ensured there is no policy paralysis any more. “India has shown bold leadership… our leadership doesn’t shiver in taking tough decisions,” Mr Jaitley said. Mr Jaitley highlighted that the NDA government has brought the country’s current account deficit and fiscal deficit down and has also managed to rein in the rupee.

Carping continues…

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Interestingly, a day after Mr. Yashwant Sinha’s scathing opinion piece, his son Jayant Sinha, who is also the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, wrote a counter piece defending the performance of Modi government. Speaking to reporters the senior Mr. Sinha lashed out, saying, “If he wrote it on his own then it is fine; but if he was asked to write it by someone, then it is a cheap trick to pit son against father.” He also questioned that if his son was trusted to put forward the government’s view on policy, then why was he moved out of the finance ministry?

Responding to the rebuttal penned by Mr. Jayant Sinha, Mr. Chidambaram tweeted: “Jayant Sinha’s article in ToI reads like a PIB (Press Information Bureau) press release. He should know that administrative changes are not structural reforms.” In a series of tweets he questioned junior Sinha’s arguments: “If Jayant Sinha is right, why is the outcome a steady decline in GDP growth over 5 quarters? If Jayant Sinha is right, why is there no increase in private investment?”

 


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