New Delhi: As Congress leaders gleefully weighed in today with I-told-you-so over BJP senior Yashwant Sinha's lacerating criticism of the government's handling of the economy, the opposition party's vice president Rahul Gandhi has tweeted a taunt from Gujarat, where he is wrapping up a three-day election campaign tour.
"Ladies & Gentlemen, this is your copilot & FM speaking. Plz fasten your seat belts & take brace position. The wings have fallen off our plane," Mr Gandhi tweeted as he shared Yashwant Sinha's critique in the Indian Express newspaper. Mr Sinha has squarely blamed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for what he has says is the "mess" the economy is in.
Rahul Gandhi has built his recent attacks against the government around the economic slowdown, accusing it yesterday of taking important decisions like demonetisation and the GST roll-out "without listening to anybody," decisions which, he said, "affected the backbone" of the country's economy.
His party colleague P Chidambaram, like Yashwant Sinha a former Finance Minister, applauded the BJP leader for his plainspeak, saying he has written about the same "weaknesses in the economy" that the Congress has been pointing for the past 18 months. The opposition party, Mr Chidamabaram said, was told to shut up.
"We are happy Yashwant Sinha has spoken the truth, echoed our views about economy...he has spoken truth to the power," Mr Chidambaram said.
"I shall be failing in my national duty if I did not speak up even now against the mess the Finance Minister has made of the economy. I am also convinced that what I am going to say reflects the sentiments of a large number of people in the BJP and elsewhere who are not speaking up out of fear," Yashwant Sinha has written in his article titled "I need to speak now," alleging that Mr Jaitley's many key roles in the government have not allowed him to focus on the economy as required.
Yashwant Sinha, who was Finance Minister in the BJP-led government of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has expressed concern at growth slowing, private investment shrinking, and has, much like Rahul Gandhi's party, assessed last year's notes ban "to be an unmitigated economic disaster" and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as "badly conceived and poorly implemented," pointing out that "sector after sector of the economy is in distress."
The BJP leader, one of the veterans in the party sidelined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has predicted that an economic revival by the next Lok Sabha election in 2019 "appears highly unlikely" and warns that "a hard landing is inevitable".
Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it is a "very hard-hitting article".
The government has defended its handling of the economy. "India's record is well known across the world. It is one of the fastest growing economies," said Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while Railways minister Piyush Goel said, "Under the decisive leadership of PM Modi, India has become the world's fastest-growing economy for three years in a row."