BJP member and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha came all guns blazing at the ruling government — particularly FM Arun Jaitley — on Wednesday, accusing him of bearing more responsibilities than he can handle, and ‘making a mess of the economy.’
In a scathing column, published in English daily Indian Express, Sinha wrote, “the prime minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His finance minister is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters.”
In a blazing takedown of Jaitley’s financial policies, Sinha drew attention to the current phase of economic down-spiral — the pinch of which all sections are feeling — apart from criticising the demonetisation move and a “badly conceived and poorly implemented GST.”
“Private investment has shrunk as never before in two decades, industrial production has all but collapsed, agriculture is in distress, construction industry, a big employer of the work force, is in the doldrums, the rest of the service sector is also in the slow lane, exports have dwindled, sector after sector of the economy is in distress,” Sinha said. “For quarter after quarter, the growth rate of the economy has been declining until it reached the low of 5.7 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal, the lowest in three years,” he added.
BJP rose to power in 2014 riding the ‘Modi wave’ and promising a governance of hope and opulence of opportunities during times of illustrated economic downturn, but fate has it now sealed in a state of irony. “The prime minister is worried. A meeting convened by the prime minister with the finance minister and his officials appears to have been postponed indefinitely,” Sinha noted in his piece.
Sinha made a few very pertinent points in the column. First, he pointed out how Jaitley was lucky when he took over as finance minister, despite losing his Lok Sabha election from Amritsar — “depressed global crude oil prices placed at his disposal lakhs of crores of rupees. This unprecedented bonanza was waiting to be used imaginatively.”
Second, he echoed one of the more primary concerns — the number of cabinets being handled by Jaitley. “Four ministries in one go out of which he still retains three. I have handled the ministry of finance and know how much hard work there is in that ministry alone. Finance ministry, in the best of times, calls for the undivided attention of its boss if the job has to be properly done. In challenging times it becomes more than a 24/7 job. Naturally, even a superman like Jaitley could not do justice to the task,” he wrote.
And finally, Sinha pointed towards a darker, but truer, picture of the declining economy — “the methodology for calculation of the GDP was changed by the present government in 2015 as a result of which the growth rate recorded earlier increased statistically by over 200 basis points on an annual basis. So, according to the old method of calculation, the growth rate of 5.7 per cent is actually 3.7 per cent or less.”
Sinha’s also pointed out “a revival by the time of the next Lok Sabha election appears highly unlikely.”
The article has been widely shared and cited on social media all morning. It received backing from most political opponents.
Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan were among the other political firsts to react to the piece.
Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, meanwhile, pointed out in a tweet that BJP inner turmoil was emerging as its greatest challenge yet.
After a series of embarrassments, the latest has placed the ruling BJP in a serious situation. If Sinha was not setting the stage for the next Lok Sabha polls, he was at least spelling trouble for the finance minister and may be giving BJP a splitting headache.