Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s attribution of poor vehicle sales to millennial preferences was a foolish theory. He said the government should instead come up with a “concrete plan to fix the economy”.

On Tuesday, Nirmala Sitharaman had said: “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.” She had said that millennials do not seem to be inclined towards committing to EMIs to buy cars.

Rahul Gandhi tweeted on Thursday: “What India needs isn’t propaganda, manipulated news cycles and foolish theories about millennials, but a concrete plan to #FixTheEconomy that we can all get behind. Acknowledging that we have a problem is a good place to start.”

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the Bharatiya Janata Party government was confused about the economy. “Before elections it was said that Ola, Uber increased employment,” she said. “Now it is being said auto sector slowdown is due to Ola, Uber.”

The Congress had hit out at Sitharaman on her comment on Wednesday. It said the statement reflected the “inefficiency, immaturity, and inexperience” of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s governance. 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.

Former Union minister Jairam Ramesh quoted Maruti Suzuki Chairman RC Bhargava to dismiss the Ola-Uber theory for loss in sales. “FM blames Ola, Uber & millennials for slump in car sales. Chairman of Maruti Suzuki who knows better denies it,” he said in a tweet. “FM must recognise that slowdown is for real & across-the-board going far beyond only passenger cars. But in this era of ‘uber-nationalism’ anything goes”.

The 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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