During his first ever interaction with the media ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections slated for Saturday, former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Monday launched an all-out attack on the Narendra Modi-led BJP government over alleged economic mismanagement and falling growth rate and accused it of “peddling conspiracy theories” instead of adopting “prompt corrective actions”.
“It pains me to see how, rather than standing up to all the challenges, the Modi government’s response has been to stifle dissent each time deficiencies are pointed out. Innovation needs support and an environment where ideas can be discussed and debated without apprehension or inhibitions,” Singh told reporters at the Karnataka Congress headquarters in Bengaluru.
Singh alleged that the economic “mismanagement” of the Modi government was evident through the present growth rate which is lower than that during the UPA regime, despite favorable global conditions. “Today, neither are banks lending money nor is the private sector borrowing in order to make new investments. The growth engines of the economy are spluttering. Perhaps, it is here that the mismanagement of the Modi government is most evident,” he said.
“The economic mismanagement of the Modi government, I say this with great care and responsibility, is slowly eroding the trust of the general public in the banking sector. Instead of taking prompt corrective action, the government is busy providing excuses and peddling conspiracy theories.”
Raising the issue of rising fuel prices, Singh said the Centre was “punishing the people” by levying “excessive excise taxes”. “Petrol and diesel prices are at a historic high. This, in spite of lower international crude oil prices, because the Modi government chooses to levy excessive excise taxes. Instead of passing on the benefits of low prices to the people, the government has decided to punish the people,” he said.
The former PM also attacked the government on the farmers’ crisis and unemployment. He said, “Our farmers are facing an acute crisis, our aspirational youth are not finding opportunities, and the economy is growing below its potential. The unfortunate truth is that each of these crises was entirely avoidable.”
“Modi forgets to mention that the policies of UPA I & II led to the lifting of 140 million people above the poverty line during 2004-2014,” he added.
While raking up the Modi’s government’s decision on demonetization and implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST), he said, “Demonetisation and GST have hurt the medium, small and micro enterprises and have resulted in the loss of tens and thousands of jobs. True leadership creates opportunities, it does not destroy them”
Singh also asserted that it was the Modi government and not the UPA who is responsible for the Punjab National Bank scam. Responding to a reporter’s questions, he said, “As far as Nirav Modi is concerned, it was obvious that in 2015-16, something was going around with the affairs of Modi. Yet, the Modi government didn’t do anything. If the blame has to be cast, it has to be on the government of mandate.”
He added, “In fact, the PM was in Davos in the company of Nirav Modi and only a few days later, the latter ran away from the country. That itself is the reflection of the sad state of affairs in this wonderland of Modi government.”
The veteran Congress leader also took a swipe at the government for its “irrational comments”. While responding to another reporter’s question, he said, “It does not help that the ministers in Modi’s cabinet and BJP chief ministers regularly make comments promoting irrationality. It, thus, comes as no surprise when irrational policies hurting people are implemented.”
“Each time we have sought an answer for any of the disastrous policies of the present BJP government, all we hear is that ‘the intentions’ are virtuous. Reduced budgets, administrative takeovers, and harassment of students and dissenting voices are a violation of our Constitutional norms,” he added.