Chidambaram dares PM Modi, says ‘have courage to admit note ban failed’


Former Finance Minister and a known critics of the NDA government’s economic policy, P Chidambaram, on Saturday challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have the “courage” to accept that his demonetisation plan was an utter failure.

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Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, the former finance minister said, “It does not require courage to make a wrong decision, but it requires courage to accept that you have made a wrong decision. Demonetisation was a wrong decision and the PM should have the courage to accept that he made a wrong decision.”

His criticism came just days after the GDP data showed India’s economic growth had slowed down considerably, lowest in three years. This followed the Reserve Bank of India’s spectacular admission that 99% of the demonetised currency was back with the banks, puncturing the government’s claims to tackle black money and counterfeit currency through note ban.

BJP President, Amit Shah, on Friday rejected the claim that demonetisation was responsible for the economic slowdown blaming technical reasons for the recent weak data.

Chidambaram said that much of the prevalent trouble the economy was facing was due to Modi’s note ban decision. He said that it resulted in loss of 1.5 lakh jobs and the 1.4 percentage point drop in GDP growth virtually wiped out the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), reported PTI.

“Where are jobs? Indirectly, government has admitted its failures. Minister for MSME Kalraj Mishra has been sacked, the skill development minister has been sacked, which means the skill development mission and creating jobs has failed. The labour minister has been sacked because your labour policies have failed,” Chidambaram was further quoted by the news agency.

He also alleged that the country was facing a “very bad economic crisis” adding that youth were bearing the brunt of the wrong policies of the Modi government.

While 1.2 crore people are joining the workforce annually, not enough jobs are being created, he said.

Chidambaram said many more ministers should have been sacked in the last week’s reshuffle, and referred to “failures” in agriculture which has grown at 2 per cent in first quarter, and also the change of guard at the commerce and industries ministry, where exports have declined and manufacturing growth is sagging.

Asked if the Congress will seek the PM’s resignation over the state of the economy, he said, “It is not easy (to ask) for the PM’s resignation….the PM has come to a conclusion that the labour, skill development and MSME policies have failed, for which he has sacked these three ministers.”

Chidambaram further said it is unfair to conclude that the recent elections were a (positive) verdict on note ban, and added that one should not be “dazzled” by the BJP’s thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh.

Terming the so-called Rs. 16,000 crore gain from unreturned notes as “illusory”, he said the RBI had to spend much more for printing new notes and transporting them.

On the banking sector’s NPA trouble, he said up to 40 per cent of bad loans have originated during the Modi regime, and alleged that bank chairmen are not taking decisions for fear of harassment from investigative arms of the government.