Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched a scathing attack on his veteran party colleague and someone who held Jaitley’s porfolio twice in the previous BJP government, Yashwant Sinha.
In a no holds barred attack, Jaitley called Sinha a “job applicant at 80” and accused him of “acting in tandem” with Congress leader P. Chidambaram, also a former finance minister. Jaitley did not stop here. He took potshots at Sinha by referring him as former finance minister, who had now become a newspaper columnist.
At the launch of a book event, Jaitley said, “Probably a more appropriate title for the book would have been ‘India @70, Modi @3.5 and a job applicant @80′”, an apparent dig at Sinha who is 84.
Jaitley’s remarks came a day after Sinha crucified his own government led by Narendra Modi by concluding that the Centre’s short-sighted policies had landed India’s economy into a mess. A day later, he repeated his atatcks on Modi and threatened to stage a protest if the he did not give him time for a meeting.
Jaitley, for his part, defended the demonetisation and implementation of GST, the two key issues on which Sinha had attacked the government, holding them responsible for pulling the economy down.
He said, “There are always attempts to change the narrative. I don’t have the luxury of being a former Finance Minister. Nor do I have the luxury of being a former Finance Minister who has turned a columnist. And therefore, I can conveniently forget about a policy paralysis, I can conveniently forget the 15 per cent NPAs (non-performing assets) of 1998-2002, I can conveniently forget the $4 billion reserves left in 1991. And I can switch over and change the narrative.”
Recalling a parliamentary debate on Bofors in 1999 shortly after he entered the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said veteran leader L.K. Advani complimented him for his speech but advised him to focus on issues rather than persons.
“I have tried to follow it. I may have breached this rule once in a while. I have some very distinguished predecessors in the Finance Ministry. One is a former Prime Minister and one is a former President. But I am not referring to them. The others (Sinha and Chidambaram) have decided to act in concert because speaking on persons and bypassing the issues is something easily done,” Jaitley was quoted by IANS.
Jaitley said he had done some research before coming to the event and found that Sinha had said that Chidambaram will have to be born again to match his record in the Finance Ministry, that Chidmabaram was like an incompetent doctor who failed to curb India’s alarming deficit and accused him of being the most conceited person. He then went on to accuse that Chidambaram had ordered bugging of Sinha’s phones.
“Today, with complete responsibility I want to say that when I raised the Aircel-Maxis issue, he (Chidambaram) ordered my phones to be bugged,” Jaitley said.
The Finance Minister then went on to recollect what Chidambaram had said about Sinha.
“I thought Sinha was happy to remain a distant memory for the people of India. However, since he seemed determined to remain relevant in his party I am obliged to recall his record during his four years as Finance Minister. I may point out that 2001, 2002, 2003 were the worst years since liberalisation in terms of growth. And Vajpayee had to force him out. I am glad they did not have Advani to advise them. Acting in tandem won’t change facts,” Jaitley said, quoting Chidamabaram.
Seldom has anyone seen Jaitley so rattled since he became one of the most powerful ministers in the Modi cabinet. The negative economic growth coupled with the protests across India on the faulty implementation of the GST appear to have left the finance minister incredibly nervous. Many economists including the former prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has warned the economy to go further down the hill due to prolonged impact of demonetisation and the GST’s adverse effect.
Meanwhile, stepping up its attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over their “economic mismanagement”, the Congress today said “Modi-nomics” and “Jaitley-nomics” have “utterly” failed.
The Congress said Modi and Jaitley should wake up from their “slumber” to take corrective measures to restore the economy. “If not the day is not far when both of them will be “former prime minister and finance minister,” he said.
Earlier today, Jaitley said he does not have the luxury of being a former finance minister — an apparent counter to senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha’s criticism of his handling of the country’ economy.
Speaking to reporters in Delhi, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala accused Jaitley of insulting Sinha, saying it was “unacceptable” in political life.
“You can ask anybody on the street and the simple answer is Modi-nomics and Jaitley-nomics have utterly failed…economic mismanagement, policy paralysis have become synonymous with current Modi government,” Surjewala was quoted by PTI.