Bharatiya Janata Party veteran Yashwant Sinha on Thursday stuck to his guns after government's strong rebuttal of his stinging criticism of its handling of the economy over which union minister Jayant Sinha also joined issue with his father and stoutly defended the economic policies.
An unfazed Yashwant Sinha, who had launched a blistering attack on the government, and the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in particular, that set off a political storm, hoped the Centre would do some course correction.
Yashwant Sinha, a former finance minister in the Vajpayee government, also said he had sought an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year so he could flag the issues, which he did through an article in a national English daily, The Indian Express, but got none. In the article, he spoke of the "mess the finance minister has made of the economy."
"I found the doors were shut for me. Therefore, I had no option but to speak up (in media) and air my views. I am confident I have worthwhile suggestions to make (to the prime minister)," the 84-year-old IAS officer-turned-politician told national TV channels.
Yashwant Sinha said any government of the day "should listen" when people like former prime minister Manmohan Singh or ex-Union finance minister P Chidambaram, considered experts on financial matters, speak up, and advised against dismissing their views as "political rhetoric".
The BJP leader, without naming the previous United Progressive Alliance government, said it "cannot be blamed" for the tardy implementation of central projects as the National Democratic Alliance has been in power for the last 40 months.
In what is seen as a counter to his father's attack on the BJP-led NDA government's handling of the economy, Jayant Sinha, the minister of state for civil aviation, made a stout defence of the government's economic policies.
However Sinha Jr rejected suggestions that he wrote an article disputing his father's contentions on the state of India's economy at anybody's bidding, insisting it was "absolutely out of his own conscience".
Sinha, minister of state for civil aviation, also said his difference of opinion with his father was "very serious discussion" and that it should not be seen "in a personal way".
"It was absolutely my own conscience... I reject any such charge that I was asked to write the article. I wanted to write the article," he told a television channel, a day after Sinha Sr. kicked up a storm by criticising Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for the economic "mess" in the country in an article in another national English daily.
"It is a very serious discussion about the future of the economy and it should not be seen in a personal way," Jayant said, adding the economy is shifting gears, and that it has slowed down a little bit so it can accelerate further.
Jayant Sinha said several articles have been written on the challenges facing the Indian economy.
"Unfortunately, these articles draw sweeping conclusions from a narrow set of facts, and quite simply miss the fundamental structural reforms that are transforming the economy," Jayant Sinha said in an op-ed article in The Times of India.
"Moreover, one or two quarters of GDP growth and other macro data are quite inadequate to evaluate the long-term impact of the structural reforms underway," he said.
Jayant Sinha also said these structural reforms were not just desirable, they were necessary to create a 'New India' and provide good jobs.
"The new economy that is being created will be much more transparent, globally cost-competitive, and innovation driven. Importantly, the new economy will also be much more equitable, thereby enabling all Indians to lead better lives," he said.
The junior Sinha also claimed that the structural reforms unleashed by the Modi government since 2014 constitute the third generation of reforms, after the first in 1991 and the second in 1999-2004 NDA government.
Referring to his son's defence of the government, Yashwant Sinha sought to know why Jayant was shifted from the finance ministry "if he was so competent" to answer the concerns raised by him.
Jayant Sinha was shifted out of the finance ministry in July last year.
"There is a decline in the growth rate quarter after quarter. I decided to speak up when the problems in the economy were multiplying...I hope the government even now will take steps to correct the situation which has arisen."
Yashwant Sinha said the purpose behind highlighting the concerns about the economy through an article was to bring certain issues in public domain so that the government does a course correction. He said he did not expect his article to create "such a furore".
Yashwant Sinha said both he and his son were doing their "dharma" (duty). He insisted that the issue should not be seen as one between "father and son".
"If someone has asked him (Jayant) to write the piece, then it is a cheap trick to play...I have not spoken to him (on the issue). Will do it some time to find out (what exactly happened)," he added.
The Congress raised questions over Jayant Sinha's claims that "structural reforms" by the Modi government would create a 'New India'.
Describing Jayant Sinha's article as a "PIB press release", Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram said Jayant should know that administrative changes were not structural reforms.
"Jayant Sinha's article in ToI reads like a PIB press release. He should know that administrative changes are not structural reforms," he said in a series of posts on micro-blogging website Twitter.
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Shatrughan Sinha, Sena back Yashwant
Earlier in the day, BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha on Thursday backed his party member Yashwant Sinha and said that he hit the nail right on the head by showing a mirror of the economic condition of the country in his article.
In a series of tweets, Shatrughan said, “Yashwant Sinha is a true statesman and a tried and tested man of wisdom, who has proven himself as one of the best and most successful finance ministers of the country. He has shown the mirror on the economic condition of India and has hit the nail right on the head.”
Shatrughan further said that it would be childish to be dismissive of Yashwant’s recent observations.
He also said that Yashwant’s article should be taken seriously and he should be appreciated for speaking up against the wrong.
The actor-turned-politician further said he was of the firm opinion that everything that has been written by Yashwant is entirely in the party and national interest.
“Only recently our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that the nation is bigger than the party.... National interest comes first,” he added.
Shatrughan also hit out at the people who are ‘‘trying to sidetrack the issues’’ and said a democracy allows everyone to have difference of opinion.
The Shiv Sena too, backed former Yashwant Sinha’s criticism of the economy and said that the Bharatiya Janata Party needs to prove that the claims by Sinha are wrong.
Backing Sinha’s backlash at demonetisation and the downward spiralling agricultural sector, the editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ said, “Sinha has also focused on the conditions the country faced after demonetisation. He has compared it to a situation of adding fuel to fire as the country was already moving in a downward spiral. Many of the government programmes like Make in India have failed. People are continuously losing their jobs. The prices of petrol and diesel are increasing. It was never this bad in the past two decades. Even the agricultural sector is struggling.”
Shiv Sena also urged BJP to prove Sinha’s comments as false claims, adding that even many BJP leaders know the truth but won’t speak up out of fear.
Comparing the situation to Stalin’s regime in Russia, the editorial says Sinha might be labelled as a traitor after his comments.
It added that it would be interesting to watch what punishment Yashwant Sinha gets for speaking truth.
Shiv Sena also deemed the claims of development made by the Narendra Modi government as mad and laughable.
With inputs from ANI