In his first press conference after he was granted bail by the Supreme Court in the INX Media case, former union minister P Chidambaram Thursday launched a blistering attack on the Narendra Modi-led government over the economic slowdown in the country, saying it is “unable to look for the obvious clues because it is stubborn and mulish in defending its catastrophic mistakes”.
The senior Congress leader, who walked out of Tihar jail on Wednesday night after spending 106 days in custody, told reporters at the AICC headquarters, “Even after 7 months into the fiscal year, the BJP government believes that the problems faced by the economy are cyclical. The government is wrong. It is wrong because it is clueless. It is 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 PMO.”
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 5, 2019
Chidambaram also referred to the growth rates of GDP in the last six quarters to say that the “government has turned out to be an ‘incompetent manager’ of the economy”. “The Prime Minister has been unusually silent on the economy. He has left it to his ministers to indulge in bluff and bluster,” he said.
Further, the Congress leader said, “Government is calling the present slowdown ‘cyclical’. Thank god they have not called it ‘seasonal’. It is ‘structural’ and the government has no solutions or reforms that would address the structural problems.”
Chidambaram also said that the economy can be revived but “this government is incapable of doing that”. “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,” he said.
“We will be lucky to end the year if growth touches 5 per cent. And please remember Dr Arvind Subramanian’s caution that 5 per cent under this government, because of suspect methodology, is not really 5 per cent but less by about 1.5 per cent,” he added.
Chidambaram, who was arrested in two separate cases, was granted bail Wednesday by the Supreme Court in an alleged money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate. He had earlier been granted bail in an alleged corruption case filed by the CBI.
“My record as Minister and my conscience are absolutely clear. Officers who have worked with me, business persons who have interacted with me and journalists who have observed me know that very well. My family trusts in God. We have total confidence that the Courts will, ultimately, render justice,” he told reporters.
However, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar claimed that Chidambaram had violated the bail conditions by “claiming a clear record as minister as the case against him is about graft during his tenure”. “This amounted to self- certification,” he said.
The bench of Justices R Banumathi, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, while directing Chidambaram to furnish a bail bond of Rs 2 lakh and two sureties of like amount, had stated that he “shall not give any press interviews nor make any public comment in connection with this case qua him or other co-accused” and “shall not tamper with the evidence or attempt to intimidate or influence the witnesses”. He was also told to deposit his passport with the trial court and not leave the country without permission from the trial court judge.
At 8 pm, when he walked out of Tihar Jail where Youth Congress workers were waiting in numbers, Chidambaram said: “I cannot comment on the case. I’m going to obey the SC order and I will not comment on the case. But the fact is that after 106 days’ pre-trial incarceration, there is not a single charge framed against me as we speak to you now. Not one charge has been framed against me. I will speak all about that tomorrow.”
Son Karti Chidambaram, who was waiting outside the jail since 5.30 pm, said: “I am of course very happy about this. This is a non-case, and nothing but vendetta politics… it’s been a long 106 days, 106 days of unnecessary incarceration and unwarranted 106 days of pre-trial remand. But I’m very glad that the Supreme Court has given relief and that he’s coming back home tonight.”