Even as India’s GDP growth rate for the second quarter of 2019-20 hit a 26-quarter low, allies of the ruling BJP did not mince words on the prevailing economic situation. One ally pointed to a “talent deficit” in the government, while another asked the government to hold an urgent meeting of political leaders and economists to find a way out of the crisis. BJP leaders, meanwhile, avoided making public remarks on the economy.
“The state of the economy is alarming, we all are concerned,” SAD leader Naresh Gujral told The Indian Express. “It is causing alarm because of the joblessness and lack of growth which is leading to unemployment.”
Articulating the disquiet among NDA partners, Gujral said the BJP had not convened any meeting of allies to discuss serious issues. “The allies are quite unhappy. The oldest ally, Shiv Sena, has already walked out and others are waiting at the departure lounge,” Gujral said. “Allies are not vying for positions, but there has to be consultation.”
JD(U) leader K C Tyagi said his party was concerned about the falling growth rate, transfer of PSU assets to private parties and gloom in the agriculture sector which triggers exodus from villages. “The government should not ignore or ridicule warnings of economists or former RBI governors. It should open modes of communication, there should be a meeting of political leaders and economists. People like (former PM) Manmohan Singh should be called to discuss the issue. Because this is not a matter of confrontation, it is a matter of consultation,” Tyagi told The Indian Express.
“Being a socialist party, the JD(U) has serious concerns about the pace in which assets of PSU are being sold to private firms. Selling PSU assets for revenue collection has proved to be a wrong method of dealing with economic crisis. During Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time, there was a ministry for it, but it did not yield results. Even in Manmohan Singh’s term it happened but with no results,” he said.
According to Tyagi, the government should not “ignore or ridicule” warnings from economists. “Former RBI governors have been giving warnings,” he said.
Gujral, senior leader of SAD, one of the BJP’s oldest allies, pointed to a “talent deficit” in the Narendra Modi cabinet. “There is a talent deficit in the cabinet today. We have seen that ministries manned by competent ministers are doing well. Not that there is a dearth of efficient people in BJP benches. Besides, some ministers are overburdened,” Gujral said.
BJP leaders avoided public remarks on the economy. “We presume that appropriate quarters in the party are seized of the matter,” said a BJP office-bearer requesting anonymity.
One leader took exception to the remarks of various ministers to downplay the crisis. “When NSSO reports on unemployment and rural consumption reports came to light, our people cited alternative statistics on automobile sale, Ola/Uber services, full airports, cinema earnings to counter. That the finance minister has come to a situation to admit slowdown, if not recession, is a way of acknowledging the situation ultimately,” the party functionary said.
“There is no buoyancy in industry/business these days. Even GST collections are down. It is a matter of concern. We will talk over it. But not on phone please,” said a senior BJP MP.
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“The economy should be our focus. The situation doesn’t look promising,” another senior BJP functionary said, wondering whether the announcements by the Finance Minister since the Budget had been able to make a dent in economic sentiments.
Several party leaders did not rule out economic slowdown playing a part in the poll results in Maharashtra and Haryana, where the BJP fell short of its expectations.