‘Trying to pull India down’: Sitharaman’s fierce rebuttal to Manmohan Singh

Updated on Feb 17, 2022 10:51 PM IST

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said she was hurt by former PM Manmohan Singh’s comments and reminded him that he is remembered for not being able to “control inflation for 22 months”

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said former PM Manmohan Singh, who is remembered more for having made India into a Fragile Five economy, is suddenly paying attention to economy. (HT Photo/Arvind Yadav)
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said former PM Manmohan Singh, who is remembered more for having made India into a Fragile Five economy, is suddenly paying attention to economy. (HT Photo/Arvind Yadav)

NEW DELHI: Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday launched a scathing attack on former prime minister Manmohan Singh for not doing enough to bring the economy on track during the UPA regime and of trying to pull down India at a time it is counted as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

“It hurts me,” Sitharaman said, adding that Singh’s comments, designed with electoral politics in mind, are akin to pulling India down.

The finance minister was responding to Manmohan Singh’s video message in Hindi that was severely critical of the Narendra Modi government for its handling of the economy, diplomacy and politics.

“They (BJP-led govt) have no understanding of economic policy… Rich people are getting richer while the poor people are getting poorer,” the 88-year-old former prime minister said in the video released by the Congress ahead of the Punjab elections on February 20.

Watch: How Manmohan Singh lashed out at Modi over LAC standoff

Singh said the government, which has been in power for the last seven-and-a-half years, rather than admitting their mistakes and making amends, was still blaming first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru for being responsible for people’s problems.

Sitharaman responded. “A PM who is remembered more for having made India into a Fragile Five economy...India that is being remembered for that notorious status... the PM who could not control inflation for 22 months continuously...the PM who saw capital fly away from this county.. our foreign exchange reserve was about $275 billion seven years ago and now it is $630 billion… is suddenly paying attention to economy. Is this for Punjab elections?” she said.

She said Singh did not refer to inclusivity when vaccines were being sold for a premium in the Congress-ruled Punjab. “Why couldn’t he speak when vaccines were sold for a profit in Punjab, where he is going for campaigning today, then he did not speak of inclusivity. Dr Manmohan Singh, I had great regard for you but did not expect this from you. Can just electoral considerations make a learned PM of this country, who is also an economist speak ill about India, which is now in spite of the pandemic the fastest growing economy?” the minister asked.

Accusing the UPA government led by Singh of presiding over scams, she said the former PM should also comment on the NSE scam that has come to light.

“You are commenting in the context of Punjab elections, but NSE is enough to say, you paid no attention (to the economy). It is your scandal; you should comment on it too,” she said, a reference to the former National Stock Exchange chief Chitra Ramkrishna having taken guidance of a ‘Himalayan Yogi’ in running the country’s biggest stock exchange. She was appointed NSE chief in 2013 when Manmohan Singh was prime minister.

Sitharaman also sought to punch holes in the Congress accusation that the poor have become poorer in India after the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014, saying the Oxfam report which was the basis for the Congress claim adopted a flawed methodology.

“The formula that they used is wrong. It should be on grounds that are truly substantial. The report looks at two scenarios, they are not looking at the government schemes - even if you have nothing, we are giving you a loan to start a business. If your liability increases because of a loan given to you, the report considers this as poverty increasing. Government intervention by way of financial inclusion is not being considered at all,” she said.

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