P Chidambaram attacks Centre over 'floundering state of economy', detentions in Kashmir; claims 'govt is incapable of pulling country out of crisis'

FP Staff

"As I stepped out and breathed the air of freedom at 8 pm last night, my first thoughts, prayers were for the 75 lakh people of the Kashmir who have been denied their basic freedoms since 4 August 2019", former Union minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram said while opening his first press conference on Thursday after getting a bail in the INX Media case.

The former finance minister took a scathing jibe at the BJP-led Centre over the current state of economy. He said that the government is 'incapable' of pulling the economy out of the current slowdown. "We will be lucky to end the year if growth touches even five percent." He reiterated former chief economic adviser to the government, Arvind Subramanian's caution that "five percent under this government, because of suspect methodology, is not really five percent but less by about 1.5 percent." He further alleged, "if the diagnosis is wrong, the prescription will also be wrong."

While the Congress leader refused to speak on his case, he only said that the order would clear the "many layers of dust" that has settled on the understanding of criminal law and the manner in which criminal law had been administered by the courts.

Focusing primarily on the state of economy, Chidambaram said the BJP government believed that the problems faced by the economy were cyclical even after seven months into the current financial year. He said, "The government is wrong. It is wrong because it is clueless." He claimed that the government was unable to look for the "obvious clues because it is stubborn and mulish in defending its catastrophic mistakes like demonetisation, flawed GST, tax terrorism, regulatory overkill, protectionism, and centralized control of decision-making in the prime minister's office."

He launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for remaining silent over the economic slowdown, claiming that the prime minister had left it to his ministers to "indulge in bluff and bluster". The senior Congress leader quoted the Economist, saying that the net result of Modi has led to the government to be an 'incompetent manager' of the economy.

He further clarified that his record as a minister and his conscience is 'absolutely clear'. He spoke about the people of Jammu and Kashmir and expressed concern over the prolonged detention of political leaders who have been held without any charges. "Freedom is indivisible, if we must preserve our freedom, we must fight for their freedom," he said. He further alleged that he would be ready to go and visit the Valley 'if the government allowed him to do so".

According to the Congress leader, the previous UPA dispensation had lifted 14 crore people out of poverty between 2004-2014, while the NDA had pushed millions of people below the poverty line since 2016.

"The economy can be brought out of the slowdown, but this government is incapable of doing that," he said. "I believe that the Congress and some other parties are better equipped to pull the economy out of the slowdown and push economic growth, but we have to wait for better times."

Asked about industrialist Rahul Bajaj, who had asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah if people were scared to criticise the government, Chidambaram said: "There is fear everywhere. Media also gripped with fear."

He said if the government believed that the Gandhi family did not require SPG protection, "then that is a cross the government has to bear".

The government has recently withdrawn the Special Protection Group security cover given to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Earlier on Thursday, the Congress leader arrived in Parliament a day after he was released from Delhi's Tihar jail, and told reporters: "The government cannot suppress my voice in parliament."

With inputs from agencies

Also See: 'Happy to step out of jail after 106 days': P Chidambaram to hold presser at 12.30 pm after receiving bail in INX Media case

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