- Former president said past governments responsible for India's growth too
- Says Congress brought economy from zero to $1.8 trillion
- Criticises disbanding of Planning Commission
Former President Pranab Mukherjee delivered an unusually sharp critique of the government over the economy on Thursday, calling out the disbanding of the Planning Commission and saying that India's widely-publicised $5-trillion GDP target would only be possible thanks to the work of the previous governments.
"Finance Minister, while presenting the budget, had said that by 2024 India's economy will reach $5 trillion. It isn't coming out of heaven. There's a solid foundation and the foundation has been built not by Britishers but by Indians after Independence," Pranab Mukherjee, usually known for restrained comments, said at a lecture event in Delhi.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said India would grow its Gross Domestic Product or GDP to $5 trillion by 2024, while presenting the union budget this month. BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi have frequently avowed the goal in public addresses.
"Those who criticise Congress rule for 55 years are ignoring where India was at independence and how far we have come. Yes, others also contributed, but the foundations of modern India were laid by our founders who firmly believed in a planned economy, as opposed to today, when the Planning Commission has been disbanded," Pranab Mukherjee said.
Soon after he came to power in 2014, PM Modi dissolved the Planning Commission, famous for drawing up five-year plans for decades, and replaced it with the government think-tank NITI Aayog.
"Those who criticise Congress rule of 50-55 years, they forget that from where we began and where we left. If the Indian economy is to be built to $5 trillion, we left a strong foundation of $1.8 trillion from almost zero," Mr Mukerjee said.
A lifelong Congress leader before becoming president in 2012, Pranab Mukherjee was Finance Minister in multiple governments since the 1980s.
The foundations for India to become a $5 trillion dollar in the future were laid by previous governments including that of Jawaharlal Nehru, Manmohan Singh and Narasimha Rao, he said.
"India has grown in leaps and bounds because Jawaharlal Nehru and others established IITs, ISRO, IIMs, banking network etc. This was built upon by Dr Manmohan Singh and Narasimha Rao when they liberalised the economy. That unleashed India's economic potential. It is on that foundation that the Finance Minister can claim today that India will be a 5 trillion dollar economy," Mr Mukherjee said.
He also cautioned against "violence" in public discourse and "social and political distortions and deviations" in his speech and spoke about safeguarding minority rights and freedom of expression.
(With inputs from ANI)
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