Have courage for bold reforms, to engage opposition: Chidambaram to government

New Delhi : Former finance minister P. Chidambaram on Saturday advised the Narendra Modi government to muster courage to go for “bold reforms” and “engage the opposition in order to give push to the economy”.

“Once the economy stabilised as I believe it had by June 2014, the government should have then given the economy a big push by going for bold structural reforms, taken the difficult decisions which were pending because UPA did not have absolute majority in the Lok Sabha,” Chidambaram told media persons here.

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“Now this government has 282 or may be 283 (seats) in the Lok Sabha, it should pick up the courage and take up bold structural reform and in doing so, it must engage the opposition. The Congress party is willing to engage if the government means business,” he added.

Taking a swipe at Modi government, he said that most of the policies initiated by it were actually launched by UPA and it has only “renamed” them.

“I’ve not said that they’ve followed all of our policies. I have said that ‘Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan’ has metamorphosed into ‘Swachh Baharat’. National Skill Development Mission has metamorphosed into ‘Skill India’, Financial inclusion’ has become ‘Jan Dhan’.

“MNREGA, which was rubbished by BJP, has now become the pillar on which, the government addresses rural distress. ‘Aadhar’, whose utility and validity was severely questioned by the BJP has become the mantra for all their programmes. Many of the things that they are now doing and now celebrating were launched by the UPA government.”

On the question of Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill, Chidambaram said: “My party’s position is that we have raised three principal objections. The government must engage the opposition parties on the three objections.

“Either the government must convince us that our objections are unfounded or the government must accept that our objections are well-founded and bring about the amendments. Such an enegagement or dialogue to the best of my knowledge has not taken place across the table,” he said.

Chidambaram also questioned the GDP growth projected by the Modi government.

“We are not questioning the integrity of CSO (Central Statistics Office). What we are questioning is the methodology adopted.”

“It must also ask the CSO to explain how the inflator that has been adopted is the correct inflator. If you calculate under the old methodology it is approximately 5 percent, if you calculate under the new methodology, it may turn out to be 7.5 percent,” he said.

He also emphasized on social peace and harmony for creating conducive environment for high growth.

“Unless there is social peace and harmony, unless there is security for the workers, unless the minorities, Dalits, the farmers feel secure, they will not wholeheartedly participate in produing goods and services. Social peace and harmony is needed for high growth,” he said.

Further reacting to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s remark that one needed to know someone in the government to do business in India, Chidambaram said: “Doing business is not being made easier. In fact it may have become difficult because of the environment of suspicion that has been created all around. Every act is suspect and every decision is centralised.

“I don’t know what Governor Haley had in mind, but she felt that everything is so centralised and that is why unless you know someone, you can’t get business done in India. I think she is more or less right.”

Chidambaram also targeted the government for adopting a “flexible fiscal deficit target”, calling it a “terrible idea”.