“The current Finance Minister has the distinction of presiding over the first recession in four decades,” Mr. Chidambaram said
Senior Congress leaders P. Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and Mallikarjun Kharge on January 28 addressed the media on the economic situation and the party’s expectations from the budget.
“We know that this government is exceptionally obstinate, impervious to good advice and uncaring about the calamitous consequences of its economic policies,” former Finance Minister Chidambaram said on Thursday.
“Even without the pandemic, the economy would have continued on the downward path that had begun in the first quarter of 2018-19 and continued for eight successive quarters. The pandemic pushed the economy into an abyss — -23.9% in Q1 of 2020-21 and -7.5% in Q2,” he noted.
“The current Finance Minister has the distinction of presiding over the first recession in four decades. The year 2020-21 will end with negative growth. None of the numbers estimated at the beginning of the year will be achieved,” Mr. Chidambaram said.
“We are afraid that the Finance Minister will present a dressed-up revised estimates for 2020-21 and attempt to build an attractive narrative for 2021-22. The revised estimates for 2020-21 will be a set of false numbers and, therefore, the Budget Estimate for 2021-22 will be a conjurer’s illusion,” he added.
Mr. Kharge, a Rajya Sabha member, said the party will try to raise farm laws issues again in the Parliament.
“Apart from the Budgetary issues, there are some important issues. We will try to raise about the farm laws again and our leaders are in contact with other parties.”
Mr. Kharge questioned the “intelligence failure” on January 26 that resulted in the Red Fort incident. He said the person who instigated others was seen photographed with Amit Shah and may be known to Prime Minister. “We condemn what happened on January 26. But the BJP had been trying to break the farmers’ agitation,” he added.
“The other important issue is the hurry with which the Labour Codes were passed,” Mr. Kharge said.
Asked about Congress demand for the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah for the violence, Mr. Chidamabaram said many people, including the Congress, have asked for it. “Politically, the buck stops at the desk of the Home Minister,” he said.
In response to Prakash Javadekar blaming the Congress, he said, “Have you seen any other response? For anything that happens in the country, he blames Mr. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. That’s his standard response”
Giving suggestion for the Budget, the former Finance Minister asked the government to impart a large fiscal stimulus to the economy, even if it is belated. “Such a stimulus alone will put money in the hands of the people and stimulate demand,” he noted.
The Congress argued for direct cash transfers to 20-30% of the families at the bottom of the economy, at least, for a period of six months. Rescue plan for MSMEs and closed units, reduction in tax rates/GST and increased capital expenditure were other suggestions for economic revival.