On the last day of campaigning for the first phase of Gujarat elections on December 9, Singh said there was a difference in what Modi preached and what he practiced. “So far as the issue of corruption in concerned, strict action was taken against those who were found guilty during UPA rule. But in the BJP rule, no attention has been paid to the issues which have come to the fore. You must have observed what all is being said about the son of BJP chief Amit Shah. If Modi government wants to weed out corruption, it is incumbent upon the government to take action on the issues which are being discussed among the public. But no action is being taken. This is the proof of how much truth is there in what Modi says and what he does,” the former PM said in Rajkot.
A news portal had recently reported that after BJP came to power in the Centre,the company of Amit Shah’s son Jay saw a spike in business for a brief period before going down again. The BJP has denied any wrongdoing and Jay has filed a defamation suit against the media house.
After landing in Rajkot, Manmohan Singh visited Kaba Gandhi no Delo, the house where Mahatma Gandhi spent his childhood, and paid tributes to the Father of the Nation. Speaking to reporters, Singh refuted the BJP charge that he refused appointments to then CM Modi when he was leading the UPA government on the Narmada dam issue. “Modi has said he wanted to discuss the Narmada issue with me (then PM). But so far as I can recall, Modi never sought an appointment over such subject. Whenever he wanted to meet me, I was ready. It is duty of the PM to meet the CM of any state and that they should not face any hurdle,” Singh said.
The former finance minister did not mince any words while attacking Modi’s policies on Kashmir and said it had put the security agencies into two minds. “I am not aware of achievements of the BJP government in dealing with Kashmir. From making harsh statements and offending the people of Kashmir to going to Lahore and having dinner with Nawaz Sharif, such inconsistencies in policy have put the securitry agencies in two minds,” Singh charged.
The former PM, however, refused to comment on the Ayodhya controversy, saying the matter was being considered by the Supreme Court and its verdict would be binding to all. Singh also criticised the NDA government over faulty implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST). He said the new tax regime was brought in a hurry with a misguided focus on making headlines. “GST is a good idea that the Congess initiated and supported, but the BJP government’s version was poorly designed and badly implemented. It was the pressure of the protests in Rajkot and Surat and Congress demands that the government made some recent changes. I still fail to understand how a 28 per cent GST on auto parts will help the economy in the industrial hub of Saurashtra,” the Congress leader said.
Singh, however, said he was sceptical if the recent uptick in GDP growth signalled a revival of the economy. “GDP in the July-September quarter of 2017-18 has registered a growth rate of 6.3 per cent. But, it is too early to conclude that it represents a reversal of the declining trend observed in the previous five quarters. Many economists believe that the CSO (Central Statistics Office), which released the figures, has not adequately captured the impact of demonetisaition and GST on the informal sector that accounts for about 30 per cent of the economy, he said.
Singh, who himself is an economist, claimed the NDA government was unlikely to match the record the UPA government achieved in terms of GDP growth. “The RBI forecasts that growth in 2017-18 will pick up to 6.7 per cent. However, even if growth reaches 6.7 per cent in 2017-18, Modiji’s four-year average growth rate will only be 7.1 per cent, at a time when oil prices are low and there is no global financial crisis. To equal the UPA’s 10-year average, the economy will have to grow at 10.6 per cent in the fifth year. I would be happy if this were to happen, but frankly I do not hing it will,” he said.
Making a pitch to vote for the Congress in the upcoming Gujarat elections, Singh said “achhe din” was nowhere to see and the BJP was trying to distract the attention of the people from real issues. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Singh said, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. BJP is finally realising this and is desperately trying to distract the focus of the people from the real issues since achhe din is nowhere to be seen. Gujaratis have seen through the lines and the BJP’s Gujarat model is being openly challenged in the streets.”
The former PM said that performance of the Gujarat government was poor in terms of human development and if Congress was voted to power, it would spend more on education and healthcare. “The BJP governments of Gujarat have let the quality of public education decline and this has led to rampant privatisation of education. More than one-fifth of the posts of doctors and para-medical staff are vacant,” he said.
He also said that a farm-debt waiver was required to pull farmers out of the trap. “Farmers are in deep distress due to stagnation of in farm income while input costs have risen. Their credit flow is meager and the MSP promised to them has not been given. In such a crisis, a well-designed farm loan waiver will be required to release farmers from their debt-trap before further long-term steps,” he said.