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Manmohan attacks Modi for ‘economic mismanagement’

‘The government’s response has been to stifle dissent when deficiencies are pointed out,’ says the former Prime Minister.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday launched a scathing attack on the Narendra Modi government for its “disastrous policies” and “economic mismanagement”. He said the country was facing crises that were avoidable.

Dr. Singh attacked the government over a series of banking frauds, saying the money swindled almost quadrupled from ₹ 28,416 crore in September 2013 to ₹ 1.11 lakh crore in September 2017.

“Perpetrators of these frauds meanwhile escape with impunity. The economic mismanagement of the Modi government, and I say this with great care and responsibility, is slowly eroding the trust of the general public in the banking sector,” he said.

“Our nation today is experiencing difficult times. Our farmers are facing an acute crisis, our aspirational youth are not finding opportunities, and the economy is growing below its potential,” Dr. Singh told reporters in Bengaluru.

He said the “unfortunate truth” was that each of these crises was “entirely avoidable”.

“It pains me to see how rather than standing up to all these challenges, the government’s response has been to stifle dissent when deficiencies are pointed out,” he said.

Dr. Singh noted that economic policy had a significant impact on the lives of people. It was essential that those tasked with decision-making paid careful attention to policies and programmes and not act on mere whims and fancies.

“India is a complex and diverse country and no one person can be the repository of all wisdom,” he said in an apparent dig at Mr. Modi.

Every time an answer was sought for any of the “disastrous policies” of the BJP government, “all we hear is that the intentions are virtuous”.

Dr. Singh said the intentions of the Modi government, which it claimed were good, had resulted in “massive” losses for the country. “Its lack of reasoning and analysis is costing India and our collective future.”

Demonitisation, GST, fuel prices

He said that under the United Progressive Alliance governments the growth rate averaged 7 per cent. It was 8 per cent at one point of time despite turbulent global conditions.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, he said, clocked inferior growth rate despite a favourable international climate and low oil prices. In fact, the growth rate under the NDA government was lower in spite of the change in the methodology to determine it “which paints a rosier picture than reality”, Dr. Singh said.

According to Dr. Singh, two “major avoidable blunders” of the Modi government were demonetisation and hasty implementation of the GST.

The losses the economy suffered due to these blunders had severely hurt the micro, small and medium enterprises and resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

Besides, exports as a share of the GDP plunged to a 14-year low at a time when the global economy was reviving and exports of other Asian nations like Vietnam were growing substantially, he said.

Petrol and diesel prices were at a “historic high” despite a fall in international crude oil prices because the Modi government had chosen to levy “excessive” excise duty.

“Instead of passing on the benefits of low prices to the people, the Modi government has punished the people,” he said.