New Delhi: Criticizing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre again, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha on Thursday described the implantation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from July 1 as the second major blow to the Indian economy after demonetisation.
He also said that the BJP can no longer blame the Congress for the "mess", since the Narendra Modi regime has been in power and office for more than three years.
Speaking to ANI in an exclusive interview a day after the publication of his scathing and critical article on the economic performance of the government in The Indian Express, Sinha said,"It's always about the long run. I am reminded of a quote by (economist John Maynard) Keynes who once said - "In the long run, we are all dead." We have to work for the present."
He was emphatic in stating that, "The economy has been falling for the last six quarters, but I did not speak. I hope the government will wake up and the economy will pick up pace. There has been a constant downfall in the economy, Now, after three years, we cannot blame the previous government anymore (to fix the economy), because we have been given and got full opportunity."
Listing demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as the two most recent blows to the economy, Sinha said, "After the demonetization shocker, GST was another one. What was the hurry? They could have launched GST in October."
Asserting that GST has played a "big role" in the decline of the economy, the former finance minister said, "I was a supporter of GST. The government was in a hurry to implement it from July. Now, GSTN, which is the backbone, is failing."
"Demonetization shouldn't have been brought when the economy was weak, its effect is yet to subside and the GST was served up as the second big blow," Sinha said.
"The first task of the present government should have been to improve the condition of banks, which we are still awaiting," he added.
Sinha said, "Before 2014, I used to be the party spokesperson when it came to economic affairs and we used to call the then UPA situation 'policy paralysis'."
Commenting on unemployment in the country, Sinha said, "Today, people want jobs, but if you ask anyone, he will say, there is no job."
"We can't blame the previous government anymore, because we have got full opportunity," Sinha further said.
Rejecting criticism of his allegations being not based on hard facts, Sinha said, "If you leave out the Congress finance minister, then I am the only person who has presented seven budgets", establishing his credentials to speak on economic matters related to India.
Replying to his claim that was challenged by many in the government, including Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Railways Minister Piyush Goel, Sinha said politely, "Maybe Rajnath Singh and Piyush Goyal know the economy better than me, so they think India is the backbone of world's economy. I politely disagree."
Sinha, who targeted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his column, blaming "Superman"Arun Jaitley for the "mess", said, "Arun Jaitley was put under tremendous pressure, he was given additional charge of the defence ministry. After defence, Jaitley got the I and B Ministry too. The Finance Ministry is so vast that it needs attention."
Sinha said, "The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is confused that development can be done through welfare schemes.
In the article, titled 'I Need to Speak Up Now', Sinha on Wednesday took on the Centre over its poor economic record and said that demonetization has proved to be an "unmitigated economic disaster" and that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was a "badly conceived and poorly implemented" havoc.
The former finance minister reiterated his charge that demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) were badly timed.
"Demonetisation shouldn't have been brought when economy was weak, its effects were yet to subside and the GST served as second big blow. I was a supporter of GST. But, the government was in a hurry to implement it from July 01. There was nothing special in July 01 as the April o1 is important in a financial year," Sinha said, and added that now, the Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) which is the backbone of the GST, is failing.
The GSTN is a non-profit, non-government organization which manages the entire IT system of the GST portal.
He said that there are no job opportunities in the country.
"Today, the people want jobs, but if you ask anyone you would get reply that there are no jobs," Sinha said.
In his article, Sinha also took a jibe at the raids being conducted by income tax department, the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation and said that it has become "a new game to instil fear in the minds of people."
Sinha concluded his article by saying, "The prime minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His finance minister (Arun Jaitley) is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters."
Soon after the article surfaced on social media, the Congress and other Opposition parties used it as fodder to attack the ruling dispensation.