Finance Minister P Chidambaram discusses growth targets, Congress attitudes to media and AAP, and Narendra Modi’s politics in this interview to P Vaidyanathan Iyer.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has said the BJP is marketing itself better. Do you think this government is lacking in communication?
I think it is a fair criticism that we have not communicated our achievements to the people. People expect communication from the top. But given the nature and the personality of our leaders at the top, they have been, if I may say, in an understated way, very media-shy.
Could the prime minister have come more often before the public or you as the finance minister appeared before the media more often to tell people about the government’s policies?
I have appeared before the media more often than any other FM in recent times. On an average, I address the media or a public function once a week. The prime minister addressing the media is different from the finance minister or the home minister or the health minister addressing the media. When the PM addresses the media, he speaks for the whole government. The finance minister or any other minister is limited to his portfolio. It’s only occasionally we can stray and speak about other portfolios of the government, but that is not usually done. If the government’s overall stance and policies and approach have to be articulated and communicated, that can only be done by the head of the government. Let me give an example. [Barack] Obama appears on television at least twice or thrice a week. [David] Cameron appears before the media at least once a week.
India managed the global economic crisis of 2008 very well. It posted good growth numbers in the following two years. Subsequently though, it doesn’t seem so. For example, over FDI in retail, Mamata [Banerjee] snubbed the UPA-II government and eventually pulled out.
I don’t think you can compare the September 2008 crisis with the Trinamool Congress opposing FDI in retail. I think they are chalk and cheese. I can’t speak of the period 2009 to July 2012 because I was not in the finance ministry. But since my return to the ministry, we have acknowledged the difficult situation in which the Indian economy is placed and we have fought our way out of that difficult situation. Can anyone deny that the economy, in the last 17 months, has been stabilised and the exchange rate stabilised? We have added significantly to the foreign exchange reserves and we have shown determination in containing the fiscal deficit and the current account deficit. So in the last 17 months, we have continued…