Soon after senior Congress leader P Chidmbaram yesterday held his first press conference after spending 106 days in jail, the Centre hit out at the former Union minister, claiming that he violated court orders on the very first day after getting bail.
Speaking to the media, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “The allegation against Chidambaram is that he indulged in corruption when he was a minister. Now he himself is giving a self-certification that he is innocent. This is a violation of the conditions imposed on him by the court.” While granting bail to the former finance minister, the apex court on Wednesday gagged him from speaking on the case. He was booked for alleged money laundering in the INX-Media case.
Replying to allegations of “man-made” economic slowdown levelled by Chidambaram, Javadekar termed the economy under Congress-led UPA as “high inflation, low growth economy”. He reminded the ex-minister of the skyrocketing prices during the UPA era, adding that the current onion price hike was a “temporary difficulty”.
Chidambaram yesterday had trained his guns at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his silence on economic slowdown and termed the government an “incompetent manager of the economy”. He also described the disinvestment of Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) as a “scandal”.
Chidambaram also said that the Congress will oppose the Citizenship Amendment Bill and that he supports the protests of the students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the IIMC and other institutions over the proposed fee hike.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters, Chidambaram, however, had refused to comment on his case, only saying that the order would clear the “many layers of dust” that have settled on the understanding of criminal law and the manner in which it had been administered by the courts.
Hitting out at Modi over his silence on the economic slowdown, the senior Congress leader said: “The prime minister has been unusually silent on the economy. He has left it to his ministers to indulge in bluff and bluster.”
He also charged the government with making mistakes, saying it believed that the problems faced by the economy were “cyclical” even after seven months into the current financial year.
“It is wrong. Let me repeat, the government is wrong and they are wrong because they are clueless,” he said, adding that the government was unable to look for the obvious clues because it is “stubborn and mulish” in “defending its catastrophic mistakes like demonetisation, a flawed GST, tax terrorism, regulatory overkill, protectionism, and centralised control of decision-making in the prime minister’s office”.
According to the Congress leader, the previous UPA dispensation had lifted 140mn people out of poverty between 2004-2014, while the NDA had pushed millions of people below the poverty line since 2016.
Stressing that every number pointed in the direction of a floundering economy, he said that the economy can be brought out of the slowdown but this government was incapable of doing it.
“We will be lucky to end the year if growth touches 5%. Please remember (former chief economic adviser) Arvind Subramanian’s caution that 5% under this government, because of suspect methodology, is not really 5% but less by about 1.5%,” Chidambaram said.
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