Former union minister Arun Shourie has launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing his government of having no clear vision on economic issues and turning a blind eye to attacks on minorities by right-wing groups.
The 73-year-old journalist-turned-politician, who was an influential BJP ideologue during the government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also referred to the controversial monogrammed suit that Modi wore during his interaction with US President Barack Obama in January and described it as a "critical mistake".
Shourie said during an interview with Headlines Today's Karan Thapar on the first anniversary of the NDA government that the manner in which the 'trimurti' (trinity) of Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and finance minister Arun Jaitley was running the BJP has "frightened" members of the party.
'Handling of economy directionless'
Describing the government's handling of economic issues as "directionless", he said: "The government seems to be more concerned with managing headlines than putting policies in place. The situation is like the many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle lying in a mess with no big picture in mind about how to put them together."
Shourie dismissed the government's claims about achieving a growth rate of 8% as "all hyperbole". He said, "Such claims are meant to grab headlines but lack substance."
Without naming finance minister Jaitley, also a leading lawyer, Shourie said the government lacked a stable approach for dealing with investors and "lawyerly arguments" will not convince them.
Shourie also dismissed other achievements claimed by the government, including reducing inflation and fiscal deficit, increasing Foreign Direct Investment, de-regulating diesel or coal and the telecom spectrum auction. He said much of it was the result of things that have nothing to do with the government, such as a fall in oil and general commodity prices.
'Govt turning a blind eye to attacks on minorities'
The former minister for disinvestment and information technology was very critical of the government for turning a blind eye to attacks on minorities and their institutions by right wing groups.
Shourie said there was "great anxiety" among minorities after the attacks on Christian institutions and the "Ghar Wapsi" and "love jihad" campaigns. He criticised Modi's "silence" on issues related to social tensions created by the activities of right wing groups and statements by some BJP MPs and leaders.
"You tweet when Sania Mirza wins a championship or greet someone on birthdays but you don't do such things when moral questions are involved. People doubt why he is silent," he said.
Referring to former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro's remark that he felt like an "outsider" after attacks on churches, Shourie said when people of such standing make such comments, it means things have gone too far. "We have to wake up," he said.
Talking about the alienation of Muslim youngsters in the context of "love jihad", Shourie said, "If 100 Muslim youth come together and conclude that we are not getting justice here and that ISIS is right, then we have a problem at hand".
Referring to the way the BJP was being run by Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and finance minister Jaitley, he said, "It has offended the opposition as well as frightened the members of the BJP."
The speed of the BJP's expansion has scared the opposition to such an extent that they were ganging up against the ruling party, he added. Shouries stressed the need to take along the opposition if the government wants to push its economic reforms.
'Modi's suit a critical mistake'
Shourie referred to the controversy over the monogrammed suit worn by Modi during Obama's visit to India in January and wondered how the prime minister could invoke Mahatma Gandhi and, at the same time, wear such an expensive suit.
"It was inexplicable, incomprehensible and a big critical mistake," he said.
"I fail to understand why he accepted and then wore that suit. You cannot take Gandhiji's name and wear such a thing," he said, adding, it was good that Modi disposed of the suit quickly through an auction.
Critical of the way the land acquisition bill has been handled, Shourie said the issue should have been left to the states instead of generating a controversy in Delhi. He expressed disappointment that the NDA regime's promises had not been matched by deliveries and suggested the government should lower its profile and embrace the advice of others.
Shourie is considered an expert on India's economy but like most top BJP leaders from the Vajpayee era, he has not been given any role in the new regime.