The Congress on Wednesday criticised Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for blaming millennials, who preferred ride-hailing services such as Uber and Ola instead of buying cars, for the economic slowdown. The Congress said the statement reflected the “inefficiency, immaturity, and inexperience” of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s governance, PTI reported.

Congress spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi said at a press conference that the finance minister’s statements were a “grave joke” on the current economic slowdown in the country.

On Tuesday, Sitharaman had said in Chennai: “The automobile and components industry has been affected by BS-VI and the mindsets of millennial, who now prefer to have Ola and Uber rather than committing to buying an automobile.”

Singhvi said that the dip in the Gross Domestic Product had become the “new normal” for the BJP. “This remarkable, unbelievable statement by the finance minister reflects the inefficiency, the immaturity and the inexperience, the three I’s, as Shri Modi would say, of the BJP in governance,” he said. “The gross overstatement by the FM is a grave joke on the economy, on the country.”

“I am sure that she [Sitharaman] will not do what is deserved to be done,” Singhvi said. “So may I request Modi Ji to do it for us expunge her remarks and seek an apology from her to the nation.”

He asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not taking any responsibility and necessary steps required to tackle the slowdown. “Why is the Finance Minister more interested in cracking jokes and finding excuses instead of putting in efforts to bring the economy on track,” Singhvi questioned. “How will India be able to become a $5 trillion economy with such a slowdown.”

The Congress said the BJP wanted to shrug off responsibility and blame others by using such logic for poor growth. He said the mobile app-based car booking systems had been around for almost a decade and had not emerged at once. “It is not a new trend that is responsible for killing the new car market,” Singhvi said, adding that the slowdown in automobile industry did not happen all of a sudden as sales had been falling for months since July 2018.

“The finance minister should also remember that the slowdown isn’t affecting auto companies alone, but its impact is felt across sectors, throughout the economy,” he added. “Have Ola and Uber become this powerful that they can impact the economy at such a large scale?”

Auto crisis

The Indian automobile industry is facing a crisis, with 15,000 jobs lost in the sector in the last quarter and almost 300 dealerships closed down in the last 18 months. The decline in consumer confidence, coupled with the crisis in non-banking finance companies, have caused a steep fall in passenger car sales.

Automobile sales declined for the 10th consecutive month in August as passenger vehicle sales fell 31.6% since the same month last year. This was the steepest decline in a month since the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers began compiling the data in 1997-’98.

On Monday, commercial vehicle manufacturer Ashok Leyland said seven of its facilities would have up to 18 non-working days this month because of continued weak demand for its products. Carmaker Maruti Suzuki last week decided to shut down operations at its plants in Gurugram and Manesar in Haryana on September 7 and September 9.

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