Yashwant Sinha Has Stirred a Hornets Nest
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
NEW DELHI: Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha has stirred the proverbial hornets nest. As his letter comes at a time when the slowdown of the economy, and increasing joblessness has worried not just the BJP but also the RSS whose finance face S.Gurumurthy has come out in open criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policies.
And while he felt that the economy now at “rock bottom” could only go up he spoke of ,”too many disruptions, too soon. This is one of the things which a government in urgency is doing. Demonetisation, NPA rules, bankruptcy law, GST, thrust against black money — everything at one stretch; commerce cannot absorb all this.” This comes as the first open criticism from within the RSS of the economic policies that PM Modi and his Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have been desperately defending.
The BJP government’s counter to former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s open critique of the economy has fallen more in the realm of the ridiculous.
The counter penned by his son Jayant Sinha had neither heart nor soul and even BJP leaders were heard criticising this as a ‘“silly move.” Yashwant Sinha himself wondered at a government that would use his son for this, asking rather pointedly that if he was seen as such a finance whiz then why did Prime Minister Narendra Modi shift his son from the Finance Ministry where he was a junior minister.
The second counter, that certainly did not lend itself to what is considered political decency, came from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley where he referred to the senior BJP leader as a “job applicant at 80”. Ridicule that has not gone down well with the BJP as well, as Yashwant Sinha is held in good esteem, seen as “ polite and decent” in his behaviour.
The Shiv Sena has come out in support of Sinha, with a strong attack on the BJP for its economic policies. “Prove him wrong” was the gist of a hard hitting editorial in the Shiv Sena journal Saamna where it stated, “Sinha has also focused on the conditions the country faced after demonetization. He has compared it to a situation of adding fuel to fire as the country was already moving in a downward spiral. Many of the government programmes like Make in India have failed. People are continuously losing their jobs. The prices of petrol and diesel are increasing. It was never this bad in the past two decades. Even the agricultural sector is struggling."
The editorial went further to say that many BJP leaders know the truth but don’t want to speak out because of fear. It went so far as it compare the current situation to Stalin’s Russia saying that Sinha might now weel be termed a traitor for speaking the truth. Saamna further added, “When finance experts like Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram tried warning about the situation, then they were deemed to be mad. The perception of people in power 'seasoned finance ministers are fool and we are wise' has now been busted by BJP's former finance minister Yashwant Sinha. It is being said that country's development rate is 5.7 percent but Sinha has said that actually it's 3.7 percent."
The Opposition leaders have all taken note of Sinha’s comments. He has been placed very firmly on the periphery by PM Modi even though he remains in the BJP. As Sinha himself has said, he had sought an appointment with the Prime Minister a year ago but did not get it. He has been leading a group of concerned citizens to Kashmir, urging dialogue to prevent the situation from deteriorating to a point of no return. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has met Sinha and the group but PM Modi who determines Kashmir policy has been steadfast in his refusal to meet the BJP former Minister.
In the latest visit, completed just days before Sinha’s open letter on the economy, the concerned group of citizens under his watch issued a statement after what they perceived as “positive comments” by the PM and Home Minister suggesting that, “in order to operationalize the well-intentioned statements that have so eloquently been made, it is now necessary for the government to clearly identify the stakeholders, announce the name of an authorized interlocutor, set a timeframe for the beginning and conduct of the dialogue process and start it as soon as possible.”
PM Modi has not entertained either Sinha or his group on this issue. The former Finance Minister was very clear that there would be a counter strike back from the BJP after his letter on the economy with sources close to him maintaining that he would have been very surprised if his suggestions were accepted and discussed. He has considerable support now within the silent BJP, and has good relations with the Opposition parties as well.
Others who have joined Sinha in questioning the policies are Shatrughan Sinha who has come out in full endorsement of the former Finance Minister. BJP corridors are whispering about others not very happy with the current leadership with the names of LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi coming slowly back into circulation. Both while quiet are acknowledged critics of PM Modi in the party and have close relations with Sinha.