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Finance minister in cyber war with BJP

Under fire from BJP for the rising prices, Chidambaram turns around to question the party's claims of having managed the economy better during its tenure.
Hindustan Times | By HT Political Bureau, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 07, 2008 09:05 AM IST

Under fire from his political opponents for the spiralling prices, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Friday turned around to question Bharatiya Janata Party’s claims of having managed the economy better during its tenure.

That the BJP was in the Opposition did not mean that its duty to the people was only to oppose the government, he said, reminding the BJP that it had not come up with a single concrete suggestion so far that would, if implemented, help in moderating inflation.

“I regret to point out that the (BJP national executive’s) resolution is an exercise in self-deception and is aimed at spreading disinformation,” Chidambaram said in a 15-point rejoinder to the resolution that compared the NDA’s track record in fiscal management and inclusive growth with the UPA’s.

His statement on his website, which is bound to raise the political decibel level over the current round of price rise, questioned claims that the economy grew faster during the NDA’s tenure.

In 2003-04, the economy registered what seemed to be an impressive growth rate of 8.5 per cent because of a low growth rate of 3.8 per cent the previous year. The 10 per cent growth rate in the agriculture sector was a statistical quirk because the previous year had recorded a negative growth rate of 7.2 per cent. “Not surprisingly, when the NDA claimed in 2003-04 that India was shining, the people voted them out,” the finance minister said.

Chidambaram credited the UPA government’s vision, compassion and prudent fiscal management for raising expenditure on social infrastructure.

Accusing him of spreading disinformation on price rise, the BJP asked him to visit markets and see for himself at what rate people were buying essential commodities. BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “We don’t need a certificate from the Finance Minister. We are only stating facts which are stark and blunt.”

Inflation was a problem, Chidambaram said, but the NDA couldn't wish away the fact that it was a problem during their tenure too. "The current inflation is almost entirely due to the relentless rise in crude oil prices… The Government of India, like governments all over the world, is fighting inflation," he said. To criticise the government without going into the causes of the current inflationary trends and without offering any concrete solutions would amount to politicising the issue, added Chidambaram.

Prasad argued that the BJP was only voicing the concern of the common man. "We are not spreading disinformation… We urge the Finance Minister to go to any market in Delhi and see for himself the rates. It has now proved beyond doubt that inflation and the resultant torture of nearly every segment of the population is the direct result of the gross mismanagement of the food economy," he added.

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