New Delhi, (The Telegraph): The Congress today said Arun Jaitley should stop "acting like Narad Muni" by suggesting a rift in the party and accused the finance minister of creating an economic crisis despite the global oil price plunge, a bonanza no government had in 35 years.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who made the scathing attack, described the Narendra Modi government's attitude as a classic example of how not to strengthen the economy. "The index of industrial production is the lowest in the last four years, exports fell for the 13th month in a row, the consumer price index is the highest in 15 months, the rupee has touched 67 against the dollar and rural distress is scary."
Ramesh went as far as to say that the finance minister was distracted and preoccupied with battling allegations related to the Delhi District Cricket Association, which he headed till 2013.
"Between a Prime Minister more focused on a shameless personal PR campaign and a finance minister unable to give the requisite direction, the economy has been in freefall," Ramesh said.
The unusually sharp attack on Jaitley appeared caused more by his insinuations that the Gandhi family, and not the entire Congress, was responsible for blocking reform bills. While the economic indicators do ring alarm bells on certain fronts, the economy-related criticism was mixed with personal jibes to hit back at Jaitley for targeting Sonia Gandhi and Rahul over the stalled reforms.
"Jaitley's attempt to drive a wedge between the leadership and the (Congress) party is farcical. He is hallucinating if he thinks the Gandhi family and the Congress are separate. There is no difference in the Congress over the goods and services tax. Instead of being finance minister, Jaitley is acting like a Narad Muni. He has lost control over the economy. It is high time he starts acting like the finance minister instead of Narad Muni," Ramesh said.
The Congress seems rattled by Jaitley's ploy to isolate Sonia and Rahul on the GST stalemate. "The real opposition to GST is within the BJP. Narendra Modi doesn't want it, Amit Shah doesn't want it, Piyush Goyal is opposed to it, the Gujarat government is opposed to it. The Congress has become a convenient excuse for the government," Ramesh said.
The diatribe has driven ties to a new low and it will require lot of effort to mend fences before the budget session next month. Anand Sharma, the Congress's Rajya Sabha leader, had yesterday said it was difficult to cooperate with a government that "insulted and humiliated" Opposition leaders.
Today, the party came out with its list of complaints against the finance minister. Ramesh said business confidence was fading fast. "The rural distress is a direct outcome of the government's wrong policies. Jobs are not being given under MGNREGA (the rural job scheme), wages and MSP (crop support price) are not increasing, rural roads construction is held up for paucity of funds. All this is affecting rural demand and telling on growth. The government has, above all, choked funds for all welfare schemes and refused to pass on the benefits of the slump in crude oil prices, below $30 per barrel, to the people."
Ramesh referred to a policy for "start-ups" the Centre is scheduled to announce on January 16 and offered six suggestions based on Rahul's interaction with such firms in the recent past.
Though he described the upcoming scheme as another example of repackaging, he said the new policy should incorporate the party's suggestions. Ramesh said India had received $90 billion in venture capital and private equity financing for 4,000 companies - of which at least 2000 were start-ups - between 2004 and 2014, trying to make his point about lack of anything new in the plan.
The six suggestions are:
♦ Net neutrality is a must and large firms should not be allowed to restrict access
♦ Government buildings, public universities and schools should be allowed to act as incubators for start-ups by providing them office space
♦ Corporate social responsibility funds should be permitted in start-ups/innovation related research in public universities
♦ Patent registrations should be eased and the government must assist start-ups in defending their intellectual property rights in global disputes
♦ Direct or indirect government funding of start-ups should be limited to social sectors
♦The National Skill Development Corporation must be tapped to meet the huge semi-skilled labour needs of start-ups.
Photo credit: The Hindu
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