The government listens to criticism and is always ready to respond to it, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in parliament on Monday, referring to industrialist Rahul Bajaj's blunt question to Home Minister Amit Shah at an event, a video of which has gone viral on social media.
Replying to a debate on the economic slowdown in the Lok Sabha, Nirmala Sitharaman called Amit Shah's response to Mr Bajaj an example of the government's willingness to listen.
"I was on the dais. It was with the attitude that we are willing to hear criticism and respond to it, rather than say you can't speak at all. The Home Minister's response shows we are quite happy to hear," said the Finance Minister, who was among the BJP leaders to respond sharply to Mr Bajaj asking Amit Shah about what he believed was an atmosphere of fear and "a lack of confidence" in confronting the government with critical questions.
"I have been told that I am the worst Finance Minister, they're not even waiting for me to finish my term. I told them that please give me more ideas, we will work on it. If there's a government that listens, it is PM Modi's government," she said.
At an event organised by The Economic Times newspaper on Saturday, the industrialist had told Mr Shah that people feared criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration for fear of reprisals. "...You are doing good work but if we criticise you there is no confidence that you will appreciate that," Mr Bajaj said. "In UPA 2 we could criticise anyone," he added.
Mr Shah replied: "There's no need to be afraid of anything. The Narendra Modi government has been criticised continuously in media. But if you are saying that there is such an environment, we need to work to improve this."
While the industry welcomed Mr Shah's response as positive, several BJP leaders, including Ms Sitharaman, took to twitter to voice their disapproval.
"Home Minister @AmitShah answers on how issues raised by Shri. Rahul Bajaj were addressed. Questions/criticisms are heard and answered/addressed. Always a better way to seek an answer than spreading one's own impressions which, on gaining traction, can hurt national interest," she tweeted.
She said in Lok Sabha that she had responded in an "appropriate" way and encouraged critics to say more. "If any industry leader says truth to power, good. Let more speak," said Ms Sitharaman.