The Narendra Modi government failed to create jobs and clamp down on skyrocketing prices, the Congress alleged on Saturday to puncture the NDA administration’s claims of development during its two years in office.
But the main opposition party offered to work with the government if the NDA meant business and gathered the courage to push through reforms, rekindling hopes of the landmark goods and services tax bill passing Parliament.
“There is good reason why the mood of the people is somber and sullen --. The reason lies in one word – the economy. There are no jobs,” former finance minister P Chidambaram said after releasing a booklet on the completion of two years of the Modi government
“The most notable failure of the Modi government has been in job creation.”
The strong comments came as the government went all out to highlight its achievements, roping in Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan to host the India Gate event and ministers dominating airtime with televised interviews.
But the Congress didn’t appear impressed with Chidambaram asking the NDA to initiate bold economic reforms as it had the majority in the Lok Sabha.
“The Congress party is willing to be engaged if the government means business,” he said. “We cannot prescribe policy solutions. We can only advise and nudge the government to go in the right direction.”
The offer came in spite of a bitter confrontation between the two sides in and outside Parliament over contentious legislation such as the land acquisition bill.
In the 60-page booklet – “Two Years of Failed Promises & Lies of Modi Govt (Two Years of Stalled Progress and Broken Promises – Hype vs Reality) -- the Congress attacked the government over its “failures” on issues such as corruption, alleged clampdown on students and bringing back black money.
Chidambaram also said the agriculture was in distress, there were no jobs, the industry was in a slump and exports were down for the 17thsuccessive month.
“Nobody seems to care. The average citizens need jobs and incomes. They do not consume GDP numbers,” he said. “The citizens of this country will drop their own score cards. What is there to celebrate?”
The government’s celebrations underscore the BJP’s impressive performance in recently concluded assembly elections in four states. The saffron party wrested power in Assam for the first time and expanded its footprint in West Bengal and Kerala. In contrast, the Congress lost power in two states.
The BJP is also using the celebrations to launch its election campaign for Uttar Pradesh polls scheduled early next year. If the party wins India’s most populous state, it will cover the NDA in mid-term glory and weaken Opposition unity in Parliament, in addition to giving the BJP a boost for the 2019 general elections.
The senior Congress leader said the NDA government should take a cue from the “right direction” taken by the UPA government in steering the economy.
“I believe the economy had stabilised by June 2014. The government should have then taken difficult decisions that were pending because the UPA did not have absolute majority in the Lok Sabha,” he said.
Chidambaram also sought to drive a wedge between the ruling NDA partners by pointing to the Shiv Sena’s repeated criticism of the government.
“The BJP is celebrating two years of the NDA government. I said BJP because its partners, notably the Shiv Sena, have not joined the celebrations. On the contrary, the Shiv Sena has been extremely critical of the BJP,” he said.
On the GST bill, Chidambaram maintained the government must accept the amendments suggested by the Congress to break the deadlock. The NDA government has asserted the reform bill will be passed in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.