Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that his “most extensive budget consultation” consisted of meeting “crony capitalist friends and the super rich”.
“Modi’s ‘most extensive’ budget consultation ever, is reserved for crony capitalist friends & the super rich,” Gandhi tweeted. “He has no interest in the views or voices of our farmers, students, youth, women, government & PSU [public sector unit] employees, small businessmen or middle class tax payers.” Gandhi mocked the upcoming Union Budget, reportedly scheduled for February 1, by calling it a “suit boot budget”.
Gandhi was referring to Modi holding a meeting with top business leaders on Wednesday. At this meeting, Modi asked the businesspersons to give candid views on what were the reasons for the slowdown in the economy, and what, in their view, needs to be done to reverse the trend, The Times of India reported. Apart from Modi, there was only one government official present at the meeting.
India’s economy grew at just 4.5% during the second quarter of 2019-’20. The National Statistical Office said in the first advance estimates released on Tuesday that the Gross Domestic Product is expected to grow at just 5% in 2019-’20, the slowest annual growth since 2008-’09.
On Thursday, Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and ministers Piyush Goyal and Nitin Gadkari met economists, private equity and venture capitalists, business leaders and agricultural experts at the NITI Aayog office in New Delhi. They called for focused efforts at doubling the size of the Indian economy to $5 trillion by 2024. However, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was not present at either of these meetings, which led to criticism from the Congress.
“How many men does it take to do a woman’s job?” the Congress tweeted after the meeting on Thursday. In another tweet, the Congress said: “Here’s a suggestion, next budget meeting, consider inviting the Finance Minister.”
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, in a tweet, also wondered where Sitharaman was. “Same question again: What’s going on here? Finance minister indisposed?” he asked.
Sitharaman’s office responded to Tharoor. “Sir, the minister has already met economists on 20th Dec 2019, as a part of the pre-budget consultations,” the office said, with a photo from December 20 of the meeting. Sitharaman’s office also tweeted photos of her meetings with Kotak Mahindra Bank Managing Director Uday Kotak and Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar.
At the time, Sitharaman was at a pre-budget consultation in New Delhi, but at the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters, with party leaders and office-bearers, the party tweeted.