Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi needed to understand that the economy cannot grow on diktats, hours after government data revealed that the Indian economy has slipped into a technical recessionary phase for the first time ever.

“Under PM [Narendra] Modi, India’s economy is officially in a recession for the first time ever,” Gandhi tweeted. “More importantly, 3 crore people are still looking for work under MNREGA [Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act]. Economy cannot be ordered to grow by diktats. PM needs to first understand this basic idea.”

On Friday, data showed that the country’s Gross Domestic Product growth rate contracted by 7.5% for the second quarter – July-September – of the current financial year. India’s economy had contracted by an unprecedented 23.9% in the first quarter of this financial year, after being hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic slowdown.

A country’s economy is said to be in the technical recessionary phase when its GDP growth is negative or declining for two consecutive quarters or more.

Other Congress leaders joined Gandhi to criticise the government for the contracting GDP.

Party leader Randeep Singh Surjewala asked the prime minister not to compare the data of the second quarter with the first quarter, but with last year’s second quarter. “Comparison is against Q2 FY20 [Second quarter for Financial Year 2020] GDP growth rate of 4.4% tells us the state of economy,” he tweeted.

Jairam Ramesh took a jibe at the prime minister and the government’s 2016 demonetisation move, saying that the foundation stone for the downfall was laid down by the prime minister was November 8, 2016. This was the date when Modi announced the demonetisation decision.

The Indian economy, which was already slowing down before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, dipped to all-time lows in terms of GDP numbers in the first quarter, with economic activities stalled due to the nationwide lockdown imposed in March. Various financial institutions have predicted that India will register a negative growth rate in the full financial year 2020-’21.

Last week, global forecasting firm Oxford Economics said in a report on Thursday that India will be the world’s worst-affected among the major economies even after the coronavirus pandemic weakens.