Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha on Monday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi by “congratulating” him for the surge in coronavirus infections in the country and the fraying state of the economy.

In a tongue-in-cheek tweet, Sinha hailed the prime minister for ushering in “a golden chapter in the history of Indian democracy”. “The next year promises to be even better when India will climb to the top in Covid cases and the economy would have collapsed totally,” he added.

The former Bharatiya Janata Party leader was referring to Modi’s open letter to the nation on completing a year of his second term in office. “This day last year began a golden chapter in the history of Indian democracy,” Modi wrote. “It was after several decades that the people of the country voted back a full-term government with a full majority...”

India’s coronavirus cases are skyrocketing every day, putting it at the seventh place on the list of top 10 worst-hit nations. The country reported 1,90,535 coronavirus cases after a record daily jump of 8,392 new infections on Monday.

The Centre on Monday extended the nationwide lockdown to contain the pandemic till June 30, but said that all activities will restart in a phased manner outside containment zones. The first phase of this reopening, called Unlock 1, will focus on economic activities.

At first, the Centre moved aggressively to contain the coronavirus, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi implementing one of the most severe lockdowns in the world, directing all Indians to stay inside, halting transportation and closing most businesses. However, this has had a devastating impact on the country’s economy that was going through a slowdown before the pandemic. The lockdown also sparked a migrants exodus, as the poorest of citizens who rely on day labour to survive, were suddenly rendered jobless.

India’s Gross Domestic Product growth rate stood at 3.1% for the fourth quarter of 2019-’20, according to data the government released on Friday. In the October to December 2019 quarter, the country’s economic growth stood at 4.7% – a seven-year low. However, the final figures released for the third quarter on Friday showed that India’s GDP grew at 4.1% during October to December last year.

In an editorial published in NDTV, Sinha criticised the Centre for its handling of the pandemic and said these numbers on the country’s economic growth “have only added to the gloom and doom”. “It must also be pointed out that the government does not have the comfort of hiding behind Covid-19 and the consequent lockdown for this debacle because that accounts for only seven of the 365 days of the year just reported,” he added.