AHMEDABAD, Nov 7:
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the “twin blow” of demonetisation and the GST was a “complete disaster” for the country’s economy and chided the Modi Government for not having learnt “any lessons” from what he called the “monumental blunder.”
Escalating the Congress offensive against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the eve of the first anniversary of the ban of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, Singh also tore into the Government over the ambitious bullet train project, calling it an “exercise in vanity.” India’s first high speed rail project will link Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Singh said he is repeating what he said earlier that demonetisation was an “organised loot and legalised plunder.” He also called it a “reckless step” and a “disastrous policy” which failed to achieve its stated objectives and said the Goods and Services Tax(GST) was “hastily implemented.”
With Gujarat headed for Assembly polls next month, the Congress fielded 85-year-old Singh, an accomplished economist, at a party event to take on Modi in his home state. The gathering comprised mostly those representing small and medium businesses who are up in arms against the continued difficulties faced by them over GST issues.
Singh later addressed a news conference where he said Modi’s plan of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 would end up as poll ‘jumla'(rhetoric).
Stating that “bravado and drama are poor substitute for courage with conviction and the ability to execute well”, Singh told the party event that demonetisation and GST have sown a “deep-rooted fear of tax terrorism” among the business community.
Singh said “demonetisation was clearly not the way to end the menace of tax evasion and black money.”
“Demonetisation has proved to be a mere blister to reap political dividends while the real offenders have escaped. I repeat, this was an organised loot and legalised plunder,” the former Prime Minister said.
At the function organised by the Congress, Singh said that Modi should have taken inspiration from two of the “greatest Gujaratis the world has seen — Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.”
“Good governance involves both head and heart. It pains me to say that the Union Government has completely failed to do its duty on both fronts,” he said.
“Think of the human impact from this lost growth — the lost jobs, the youth whose opportunities have vanished, the businesses which had to shut down and the entrepreneurs whose drive to succeed has turned into discouraged disappointment,” he said.
“What is even more tragic is that none of the lessons from this monumental blunder have been learnt by the government,” Singh rued.
“Instead of providing relief, as I had requested in Parliament, to the poor and marginalised, farmers, traders, and the small and medium businesses, who suffered the brunt of demonetisation, the Government chose to inflict on them a badly designed and hastily implemented GST,” he further said.
This “twin blow” was a “complete disaster” for the economy, he said.
“Did the Prime Minister stop to consider the wisdom of the Mahatma when asking the RBI Governor to sign on the dotted line or while implementing GST in haste?”, Singh said, adding that Modi failed to take into account the impact these two policies had on the informal sector and jobs.
“If the Prime Minister had paid attention to Mahatma Gandhi’s talisman, the poor of India would not have suffered the way they did,” he said, adding that Modi also failed to take inspiration from Sardar Patel.
“When undertaking the endeavour of ‘One Nation, One Tax’, if the Prime Minister had taken inspiration from Patel’s resolve and attention to detail, the outcome today would have been very different. Bravado and drama are poor substitute for courage with conviction and the ability to execute well.”
Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe had in September laid the foundation stone for India’s first high speed rail project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
“The bullet train project, launched with much fanfare, is sadly an exercise in vanity and will not benefit either 6.5 crore Gujaratis or the nation,” Singh said.
“Rs 88,000 crore through a soft loan may seem like easy money, but it still needs to be repaid to the Japanese. Gujarati entrepreneurs know very well that if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is not,” he said.
The Government should have rather focused on the existing passenger rail network, the Congress veteran said.
“At a time when the economy has slowed down considerably, despite favourable global macroeconomic conditions, the fear of tax terrorism has eroded the confidence of businesses to invest,” Singh said. “As you know, the growth in private investment is at a 25-year low. This is terrible for India’s economy.”(PTI)