“Economy Would Regress Into Fragile Five If…”: Nirmala Sitharaman Attacks Congress

If Congress’ poll manifesto were to be implemented, the Indian economy currently ranked among the top five globally, would regress into the “fragile five”, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Saturday.

She claimed the Congress poll document is “more akin to a Muslim League document” and the BJP is duty-bound to question its import.

Ms Sitharaman’s attack comes against the backdrop of the ‘conducting an economic survey and x-ray of society’ remarks made by Rahul Gandhi and the BJP’s allegation that Congress is planning redistribution of wealth if voted to power.

“It is the worst manifesto which is not in the interest of the nation,” Ms Sitharaman said.

Speaking at a meeting with select journalists in Pune, the finance minister wondered whether the Congress has conducted the necessary financial planning to fulfil the assurances listed in its manifesto.

“I know they are not coming to power, but I would still like to ask, even if the subject of the Congress manifesto were to be implemented, has the Congress done the homework on the expenditure required to fulfil the promises listed in the manifesto?” she asked.

Citing the case of Congress-ruled Karnataka, Ms Sitharaman said they (Congress) attempted to implement the promises made during the state polls despite knowing that they had no funds.

“The deputy chief minister (of Karnataka) publicly acknowledged that they were left with no funds for development as the money was spent on fulfilling five promises made during elections,” she said.

“This is just about one state. If similar measures (in Congress’ poll manifesto) were to be implemented across the country, the economy, currently ranked among the top five globally and projected to rise to the third position in the next couple of years, would regress into the ‘fragile five’,” the finance minister said.

It is the BJP’s duty towards the nation to question the poll document of the Congress.

Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accused the Congress of planning to redistribute people’s property if it is voted to power.

On its part, the Congress has accused the PM of resorting to “lies” and diverting people’s attention from the real issues.

Responding to a query, Ms Sitharaman said it is the BJP which has set the agenda for the elections.

“Our response to the Congress’ manifesto is neither defensive nor negative, rather it is more offensive and substantive,” she said.

The manifesto is more akin to a Muslim League document, and if not, the Congress should stand up and counter this observation (of BJP), Ms Sitharaman said.

Referring to the criticism that BJP is spreading misinformation about Congress’s manifesto, Ms Sitharaman said, “What is wrong? We are asking questions. (The manifesto) is the fundamental point of departure from the Congress’s ideology, if there was one”.

According to Ms Sitharaman, there is a consistency in the way the opposition is prioritising wealth and its rights on the wealth.

“The Congress is saying something in the manifesto. It is saying something more to supplement it during public rallies,” Ms Sitharaman said when asked why PM Modi is raising the issue of the redistribution of wealth on religious lines.

She said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has repeated this point (conducting caste census) when he spoke about doing the ‘x-ray’ of the society.

“One can say that Congress did not mean it (redistribution of wealth) but they say they mean it. When PM Modi asked about it…he asked because he saw the trend….he saw the written word and also the spoken word. So he is saying that this is what they are going to do,” Ms Sitharaman added.

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