Former Union minister P Chidambaram on Thursday said that the “government was wrong” about the economic slowdown and “clueless” about measures needed to improve it. The Congress leader addressed the press conference after he walked out of Tihar Jail in New Delhi on Wednesday night.
“We will be lucky to end the year if growth touches 5%,” the Congress leader said during the briefing. “Please remember Dr Arvind Subramanian’s [former chief economic advisor] caution that 5% under this government, because of suspect methodology, is not really 5% but less by about 1.5%.”
The former finance minister said that the Reserve Bank of India’s forecast showed that the Centre had poorly managed the country’s economy. “Between February and December, the Reserve Bank Of India has reduced the growth forecast from 7.4% to 5%,” he said. “Either RBI was incompetent in its calculation or the government has gravely mismanaged the economy.”
Chidambaram said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been “unusually silent” on the economic slowdown. The Congress leader said Modi had left it up to his ministers to “indulge in bluff and bluster”. Figures released last week showed that Gross Domestic Product growth slumped to a six-year low in October even as industrial output contracted.
“Nothing sums up state of the economy better than the following series of numbers – 8, 7, 6.6, 5.8, 5 and 4.5,” the former finance minister said, noting the economic growth in the country. “Those are the quarterly growth rates of GDP in the last six quarters. The third and fourth quarters of 2019-’20 are not likely to be any better,” he added.
Chidambaram further criticised the Centre’s measures to tackle with the economic slowdown. “If the diagnosis is wrong, the prescription will be useless, may be even fatal,” he said. “Even after seven months into the fiscal year, the BJP government believes that the problems faced by the economy are cyclical.”
The Congress leader also raised concerns over the detention of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir since the Centre rescinded the region’s special status early in August. “I am particularly concerned about the political leaders who have been detained without charges,” he said. “Freedom is indivisible, if we must preserve our freedom, we must fight for their freedom.”
Minutes after walking out of the prison on Wednesday, he said that “not a single charge framed against” him. The Congress leader had expressed concerns about the economy even when he was lodged in jail. On Tuesday, he said that only god can save India’s economy after Bharatiya Janata Party MP Nishikant Dubey claimed that gross domestic product numbers would soon lose their importance.
In its order on Wednesday, the top court ordered the Congress leader to continue taking part in the investigation. Chidambaram has also been forbidden from travelling outside the country, tampering with evidence, and approaching witnesses. The court asked him to pay a personal bond of Rs 2 lakh with two sureties of like amounts.
The Union minister was taken into custody in August by the Central Bureau of Investigation. He was moved to Tihar on September 5, and was in the Enforcement Directorate’s custody since October 17. The Supreme Court granted him bail in the CBI case on October 22.