Noted economist and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s husband Parakala Prabhakar wrote an op-ed article in The Hindu on Monday, blaming the government for the economic slowdown.

“There is anxiety all over about the economic slowdown in the country,” Prabhakar wrote. “While the government is still in denial mode, data flowing uninterruptedly into the public domain show that sector after sector is staring at a seriously challenging situation.”

The economist, who was earlier a communications adviser to the Andhra Pradesh government, said the Centre was yet to figure out a solution for what “ails the economy”, and claimed “less evidence” is available to even believe that it has a “strategic vision” to address the problems. Prabhakar pointed out India’s GDP growth rate slipped to a six-year low of 5% in the April-June quarter and unemployment was at a 45-year high.

The article, titled “A lodestar to steer the economy”, also criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party for rejecting the Nehruvian economic framework. It said the ruling party “fails to realise” that their attacks were more of “a political assault” and not economic critique. “In economic policy, the party mainly adopted ‘Neti Neti’ [Not this, Not this] without articulating what was its own ‘Niti’ [policy],” Prabhakar said.

He pointed out that BJP’s re-election attempt had little to do with the articulation of an economic road map for the country. “It took care not to offer the economic performance of its government as a claim for re-election,” Prabhakar wrote. “It instead chose, wisely, a muscular political, nationalist, security platform.”

Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh economic policy

The economist said the ruling party should “wholly embrace” and own the PV Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh economic architecture to tackle the severe distress in the economy. He said their “path-breaking repositioning” continues to remain unchallenged even today.

“A full-fledged embrace and an aggressive pursuit of it even now could provide the BJP and the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi a lodestar to steer the economy out of the choppy waters it is in at present,” Prabhakar said.

Asked about her husband’s article, Nirmala Sitharaman said: “We have done fundamental reforms.” She listed the government’s measures such as the Goods and Services Tax, Aadhaar, and the delivery of cooking gas, NDTV reported.

The Indian economy has been struggling with a slowdown for several months. On Sunday, the World Bank revised India’s growth rate projection to 6% for the 2019-’20 financial year. However, it said if the monetary policy remains accommodative, the country will gradually recover to 6.9% in 2021 and 7.2% in 2022. The Asian Development Bank had cut its growth forecast from 7% to 6.5% the month before.

Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan last week cautioned that India’s fiscal deficit concealed a lot and may push the economy to a “worrisome situation”. Rajan said the uncertainty about the situation at the higher levels had caused severe distress in the economy.

Also read: A lesson for 2019? How PV Narasimha Rao (and Manmohan Singh) used an economic crisis for big reforms

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