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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Arun Jaitley hits out at Yashwant Sinha, calls him a job applicant at 80

At a book release function, Jaitley refrained from taking Yashwant Sinha’s name but said he does not have the luxury as yet of being a former finance minister nor does he have the luxury of being a former finance minister who has turned a columnist.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2017 23:23 IST

Asit Ranjan Mishra, Livemint
Finance minister Arun Jaitley at the release of the book India @ 70 Modi @ 3.5 in New Delhi on Thursday.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley at the release of the book India @ 70 Modi @ 3.5 in New Delhi on Thursday.(PTI Photo)

Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday took a dig at predecessors Yashwant Sinha and P Chidambaram, who have been critical of his handling of the economy.

In a speech at a book release function, Jaitley reminded Sinha, a colleague of his in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that when he was finance minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998-2002, non-performing assets (NPAs) of commercial banks stood at a “staggering” 15% of total advances. And in 1991, Sinha had left the office of finance minister with only $4 billion of foreign exchange reserves.

“The Reserve Bank of India had to bring down interest rates radically to deal with the high level of NPAs,” Jaitley said.

Sinha wrote in a column published in The Indian Express on Wednesday that the economy is on a “downward spiral” and specifically blamed Jaitley for demonetisation, which he claimed was an “unmitigated economic disaster” and a “badly conceived and poorly implemented” Goods and Services Tax (GST) that has played “havoc” with businesses.

“The Prime Minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His finance minister is working overtime to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters,” Sinha wrote.

Jaitley said he does not have the luxury of being a former finance minister who has turned a columnist and cannot conveniently forget the past record.

Another former finance minister, Chidambaram, who has always been on the opposite side of the spectrum with Sinha on every debate endorsed Sinha’s views on Jaitley and the economy. He wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday: “Yashwant Sinha speaks Truth to Power. Will Power now admit the Truth that economy is sinking?”

Jaitley reminded both former finance ministers of the not so charitable views they had expressed in the past on each other, which he said he had garnered through some research.

“Acting in tandem will not change facts,” Jaitley said.

Taking a cue from the title of the book he was releasing, Jaitley said perhaps the book could have been better titled as “India@70, Modi@3.5 and a job applicant @80”.

A day after his father’s critical views on the government were published, minister of state in charge of aviation Jayant Sinha defended the government in an article published in The Times of India.

“Several articles have been written recently on the challenges facing the Indian economy. Unfortunately, these articles draw sweeping conclusions from a narrow set of facts, and quite simply miss the fundamental structural reforms that are transforming the economy. Moreover, one or two quarters of GDP growth and other macro data are quite inadequate to evaluate the long-term impact of the structural reforms underway,” he wrote.

Senior ministers from the government -- home minister Rajnath Singh and railway minister Piyush Goyal -- also defended Jaitley and the Modi government’s record on Wednesday.

Jaitley said some people were trying to subvert the debate by claiming demonetisation to be a “confiscation of currency.” He said because of demonetisation, anonymous tender that had been circulating in the market got identified to its owner and they now have to pay taxes.

The finance minister said direct tax collections had grown 17.5% during April-August period. “The so called (economic) slowdown that some visualise has not impacted it,” he said.

First Published: Sep 28, 2017 21:28 IST

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