The government on Thursday presented a white paper that accused the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance of leaving the economy in “bad shape, nay crisis” after 10 years of the Manmohan Singh government. The document claimed the UPA inherited a “healthy economy” from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government but left the Narendra Modi administration a “non-performing” economy.
The white paper – tabled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament – comes weeks before a general election the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is widely expected to win.
In it, the BJP said it faced a “hydra-headed challenge” in fixing the Indian economy and “restoring its fundamentals to sound health”, noting it received one of the world’s more fragile economies. “… now, we are among the ‘top five’ (and) making the third highest contribution to global growth…”
“Then, the world lost confidence in India’s economic potential and dynamism. Now, with our economic stability and growth prospects, we inspire hope in others. Then, we had a scam-riddled 12-day Commonwealth Games. Now, we successfully hosted a far-bigger and year-long G20 Presidency in 2023, showcasing India at its best… (and) providing acceptable solutions to global problems.”
The white paper referred to a number of scams and corruption cases that marked the 10 years of the UPA government, including the 2G and Coalgate scandals, as well as economic concerns like double-digit inflation, the foreign exchange crisis, and a “policy paralysis” that affected investment.
“Then, we had 2G scam. Now, we have extensive coverage of the population under 4G, with the lowest rates and the world’s fastest rollout of 5G in 2023. Then, we had the Coalgate scam. Now, we have built systems for transparent and objective auctions to harness natural resources…”
“Then, we had double-digit inflation. Now, inflation has been brought down to (a) little over five per cent. Then, we had a foreign exchange crisis. Now, we have record foreign exchange reserves of over USD 620 billion. Then, we had ‘policy-paralysis’; infrastructure was not a priority. Now, (there is) the virtuous cycle of investment, growth, employment and entrepreneurship, and savings…”
“In sum, the progress achieved in the ten years of our government has overcome the malaise and paralysis of the previous ten years of the UPA government. In 2024, confidence and purpose have replaced the diffidence and drift of 2014…” the BJP’s white paper declared.
The white paper was announced by Ms Sitharaman last week, when she presented the interim budget. The combative Finance Minister said “this is the right time” to present the document.
“In 2014, we took over an economy in such a bad state. There was economic paralysis and corruption… we needed a white paper then. But at the time Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) put the people first,” she said in Parliament.
Ms Sitharaman’s announcement was “welcomed” by the Congress’ P Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister in the Manmohan Singh government from 2012 to 2014. “We are not afraid…” he said.
Mr Chidambaram, however, said he had only one condition – the paper must be written by an independent body, one not affiliated with either the BJP or the Congress, or any government agency.
“Then let us see whose performance is better…” he told a news channel.
Meanwhile, the Congress today hit back with a ‘white paper’ of its own – only they called it a ‘black paper‘. Released by party boss Mallikarjun Kharge, the document flagged increasing unemployment, a drop in the average GDP growth rate, and vacant government posts in the Modi administration.
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