Without naming either of them, Jaitley hinted that Sinha and former UPA finance minister P Chidamabram have decided to act in concert and then dug up a few comments the two had exchanged about each other over the years.
A day after former finance minister Yashwant Sinha accused him of making a mess of the economy in a newspaper column, incumbent finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that he doesn’t have the “luxury of being a former FM-turned-columnist”.
“(Had I been a former FM) I can conveniently forget a policy paralysis (during UPA-II). I can conveniently forget the 15 per cent NPAs of 1998 and 2002 (during Sinha’s term as finance minister). I can conveniently forget the USD 4 billion reserve left in 1991 and I can switch over and change the narrative,” he said.
Without naming either of them, Jaitley hinted that Sinha and senior Congress leader and former UPA finance minister P Chidamabram have decided to act in concert and then dug up a few comments the two had exchanged about each other over the years.
“Acting in tandem itself won’t change the facts,” he said.
Sinha was then quoted by Jaitley as saying that Chidambaram had run the Indian economy to the ground, while the latter was quoted as saying that Sinha’s performance as finance minister was one of the worst in history and his then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was forced to replace him eventually.
“Probably, a more appropriate title for the book would have been ‘India @70, Modi @3.5 and a job applicant @ 80,” the FM said referring to Sinha while speaking at the release of a book titled ‘India @70 Modi @3.5′, co-authored by Bibek Debroy.
Speaking about the achievements of the current BJP government, Jaitley said that its approach towards decision making has ensured there is no policy paralysis any more. He added the government has opened up the Indian economy step by step and has smoothed the entry of foreign direct investment.
“India has shown bold leadership… our leadership doesn’t shiver in taking tough decisions, ” Jaitley said.
The finance minister also said that the current government brought the country’s current account deficit and fiscal deficit down during its tenure and has also managed to rein in the rupee, adding that conducting business has now become easier in the country because multiple approvals and lengthy permission processes no longer exist.
In response to Sinha’s criticism about the demonetisation exercise, the finance minister said that the move was intended to change the anonymous nature of money in India, apart from bringing a larger populace under the tax net and digitizing payments across the system.
Furthermore, Jaitley iterated the effect of strong action taken under the Benami property law, saying it is sending out its own signals.
“Our government provided an opportunity to people to come clean about their accounts held abroad. Direct tax figures are 15.7 percent over and above last year’s figure, so this so-called ‘slow down’ visualised by some, hasn’t even impacted,” Jaitley said.
On the subject of GST, Jaitley said that he had never put anything to vote in the GST council despite having the numbers, adding that the finance ministers of 2 Congress-led states had told him not to blink on the GST issue. He also said that he had not expected states to reach the break-even point 2-3 months into the new GST regime.