Congress accuses govt of messing up economy, pitches for inclusive growth

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh expresses doubts over the government’s key agrarian agenda of doubling farmers’ income by 2020;

india Updated: Mar 19, 2018 13:17 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress,Congress plenary,inclusive growth
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, CPP chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with steering committee members during a group photo after the 84th Plenary Session of Indian National Congress (INC), at the Indira Gandhi stadium in New Delhi on Sunday.(PTI Photo)

Former PM Manmohan Singh on Sunday charged the BJP-led NDA government with “mismanaging” the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and “messing up” the economy even as the Congress pitched for “inclusive economic growth through private economic enterprise”.

On the second day of its 84th plenary session here, the Congress kept up its attack on PM Narendra Modi and the BJP, with his predecessor Manmohan Singh and former finance minister P Chidambaram questioning the government’s economic policies.

In its resolution on economy moved by Chidambaram, the Congress said it believes in “inclusive economic growth through private economic enterprise” along with a “viable and competitive public sector” and a robust social safety net.

The resolution, said a person familiar with its drafting, had been worked on by Praveen Chakravarty, the newly appointed Data Analytics Department chairman of the Congress, under the guidance of Singh and Chidambaram.

While acknowledging there remains a strong strain of “socialist” economic thinking as reflected in the proposed cess on the super rich, a Congress leader said many of the terms and themes — economic freedom, private sector and protecting it from harassment — indicated a more liberal shift in the party’s economic thinking. Congress president Rahul Gandhi himself, said the person cited above, wrote a paragraph of the resolution.

“Modi said farmers’ income will be doubled in six years, it is a jumla-type statement unlikely to be achieved,” Singh said, expressing doubts over the government’s key agrarian agenda of doubling farmers’ income by 2020.

Singh also came down hard on the government over its demonetisation decision and the “hurried” implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

“The BJP government has messed up the economy. When Modiji was campaigning, he made lots of tall promises, which have not been fulfilled. He promised to provide two crore jobs, we have not seen even two lakh jobs. In fact the ill-thought and ill-considered demonetisation and the hastily implemented GST have destroyed many jobs,” said Singh, widely credited with opening up the Indian economy as the then finance minister.

Singh was critical of the government’s handling of Kashmir. “The government has mismanaged the J&K problem as never before. They have installed a government where its two wings are working against each other. The atmosphere in J&K is deteriorating day in and day out,” he said.

The criticism came a few hours after five civilians were killed in Pakistani firing along the Line of Control in Jammu’s Balakote.

Singh said the UPA government, which he led from 2004 to 2014, could achieve a lot because of Sonia Gandhi’s guidance. Sonia, who stepped down as Congress president in December, continues to be the chairperson of the much-depleted United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Like Singh, Chidamabaram also tore into the government over its November 2016 decision to discontinue Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes.

“Demonetisation was a big lie. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is still counting and won’t tell us how much money has come back. I would like to advice RBI governor to go to Tirupati and get the ‘hundi’ collectors. They count money faster than RBI,” he said. Replying to a right to information (RTI) query, the central bank said in February that notes were still being “processed for their arithmetical accuracy and genuineness”.

Reacting to Chidambaram’s jibe at the RBI that it should learn to count money from ‘hundi’ collectors in Tirupati, defence minister and senior BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman, in her point-by-point rebuttal of the Congress speeches, said, “The RBI should hire the Congress for counting black money as they are familiar with counting it.”

The Congress resolved to win back “economic freedom” for India’s entrepreneurs, especially the micro, small, and medium businesspersons, “protect them from harassment”, and provide a stable business environment.

Chidambaram also coined a phrase — “We have done it before and we will do it again” — and repeatedly mentioned it to claim that Congress was the only party to take the country “out of the present economic crisis”.

“Why do I say that? I say that not out of arrogance, not out of conceit, I say this because we have done it before and we can do it again beginning next year,” he said.

First Published: Mar 19, 2018 12:17 IST