Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram hit out at the government on Monday over the contraction of India's GDP - by 23.9 per cent in the April-June period - accusing it of ignoring repeated warnings from experts on the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic had affected the economy.
Mr Gandhi, who this morning tweeted a video saying the government was destroying the economy by attacking the informal sector, said it was "unfortunate" it had chosen to ignore the signs.
Mr Chidambaram held a virtual press conference this evening, during which he said experts had warned the government of just such a scenario and that it could take "many months before the economy turns the corner". He also took a swipe at Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over her "act of God" remark.
"... since the end of 2019/20, the gross domestic output has fallen by about 20 per cent. The only sectors that have grown are Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing at 3.4 per cent. The Finance Minister who blamed an "act of God" for the economic decline should be grateful to the farmers and the gods who blessed the farmers," Mr Chidambaram declared.
The Finance Minister who blamed an ‘Act of God' for the economic decline should be grateful to the farmers and the gods who blessed the farmers: Shri @PChidambaram_IN— Congress (@INCIndia) August 31, 2020
The former Finance Minister said every other sector in the economy had "declined sharply" and that while that did not surprise him, it should be "a matter of shame to a government that did nothing, literally nothing, to cushion the fall by taking suitable fiscal and welfare measures".
They should also be a matter of shame to the government that did nothing, literally nothing, to cushion the fall by taking suitable fiscal and welfare measures, but we know that the Modi government has no shame and will not acknowledge its mistakes: Shri @PChidambaram_IN— Congress (@INCIndia) August 31, 2020
He also reminded the government it had been warned by experts, including the RBI.
Mr Chidambaram then said the government "will not acknowledge its mistakes", and that "inaction and ineptitude... gives us no hope we will see light at the end of the tunnel any time soon".
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury also tweeted on the GDP contraction, saying people's misery and agony "multiplies exponentially" and comparing it to the relentless rise of new Covid cases in India.
Independent Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani also tweeted, taking swipes at PM Modi over the 23.9 figure and including a reference to the controversial circumstances behind actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death.
"-23.9%: try to find & remember this number, because your media and Whatsapp University PhD won't tell you! *-23.9%* Not in Rhea Chakraborty's WhatsApp chats. *-23.9%* Not in Modi's peacock-poses *-23.9%* Not related to Ram Mandirs. *-23.9* = BJP 'Vikas Model' for Indian GDP," he said.
-23.9%: try to find & remember this number, because your media and Whatsapp University PhD won't tell you!— Jignesh Mevani (@jigneshmevani80) August 31, 2020
Not in Rhea Chakraborty's WhatsApp chats.
Not in Modi's peacock-poses
Not related to Ram Mandirs.
*-23.9* = BJP ‘Vikas Model' for Indian GDP????????????????
The nearly 24 per cent contraction is the worst in 40 years and comes amid a prolonged nationwide lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic that has badly affected business and commercial activity.
Today's reading - which fully captures the impact of the crisis on economic activity - is in stark contrast to expansion of 3.1 per cent in the previous quarter, and 5.2 per cent in the quarter ended June 30, 2019.
In May, PM Modi, responding to red flags over the condition of the economy, announced a stimulus package equivalent to 10 per cent of GDP - including credit guarantees on bank loans and free food grains to the poor - but consumer demand and manufacturing have yet to recover from the initial hit.
Just before the pandemic, the government was aiming at transforming the economy, from an estimated $2.8 trillion, to $5 trillion by 2024, despite slowing growth and low demand.