With the Union Budget only three days away, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government this morning over the state of the economy, highlighting shortfall in tax revenues and a sharp increase in retail inflation. The Congress leader also took a swipe at the Prime Minister over his BJP's campaign tactics for next month's Delhi Assembly election, urging them to refrain from "abuse and rhetoric" and explain to voters why "achhe din (good days) has not arrived after 6 years".
Mr Chidambaram, who is currently out on bail after spending more than 100 days in Delhi's Tihar Jail in connection with the INX Media scam case, has frequently targeted PM Modi and the central government over the slowdown in the economy; earlier this month he criticised the BJP over a "sliding economy" and warned of "youth and students exploding in anger".
"Since the PM and his minister seem cut off from reality, here are three things they can speak about in the Delhi elections...
CPI has increased from 2 per cent in Jan 2019 to 7.35 per cent in Dec 2019. Tax revenues will fall short of budget estimates by Rs 2.5 lakh crore in 2019-20. There will be sharp expenditure cuts in programmes meant for SC, ST, OBC, minorities and women & children," the senior politician tweeted.
People want to know why— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) January 29, 2020
achhe din has not arrived
after 6 years.
"People want to hear facts about the economy, not abuse and rhetoric. People want to know why achhe din has not arrived after 6 years," he added.
Last month was the third straight in which consumer inflation - the rate of increase in consumer prices - remained above the Reserve Bank's medium-term target of 4 per cent, dashing hopes of further monetary easing at a time when growth has fallen to its lowest in more than six years.
In a series of sharply-worded tweets Mr Chidambaram had taken aim over inflation figures and the "achhe din" promise (a campaign slogan during 2014 Lok Sabha election) then too, writing: "Food inflation at 14.12 per cent. Vegetable prices are up 60 per cent. Onion prices are over Rs 100 per kg. This is the achhe din promised by the BJP."
Mr Chidambaram's campaign advice to the BJP comes amid the party's decision to focus its Delhi election strategy on the anti-citizenship law protests in Shaheen Bagh, even as the ruling AAP claims achievements in education, women's safety, healthcare and public transportation, among others.
Earlier this month PM Modi met top economist and experts to discuss ways to revive the economy, amid confirmation by his government that growth for the current financial year had been trimmed to 5 per cent, the lowest in 11 years.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who will present the budget on Saturday, did not attend the meet, which included Home Minister Amit Shah, a fact the Congress pointed out.
Ms Sitharaman will have to walk a tight-rope with the Union Budget, given a reported Rs 2 lakh crore shortfall in tax collections leaving little room to offer any meaningful reduction in personal income tax rates; she announced tax cuts for corporates in September but that failed to boost growth.
Mr Chidambaram had previously expressed concern over the 5 per cent growth figure, calling it "exaggerated puffery".
The projected annual growth of 5 per cent is exaggerated and puffery. The growth in the first half was 4.75 per cent. It is difficult to believe that growth in the second half will be 5.25 per cent.— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) January 8, 2020
Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, who was part of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government also said the growth projection was "suspicious", and said "I have doubts about capability on this government to tackle the issue".
Delhi Assembly elections are scheduled for February 8 with results due on February 11.
With input from PTI