P Chidambaram | ANI
Mumbai: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday said the introduction of Rs 2,000 currency note and its subsequent withdrawal have cast doubt on the integrity and stability of the Indian currency.
Addressing a press conference here, the former Union finance minister said the key economic indicators are pointing downward and there is low confidence that the economy will reach the high growth path.
He also said the situation in Manipur, where recent ethnic clashes have claimed more than 75 lives, was alarming and questioned the continued silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“He (PM) campaigned in Karnataka, visited Japan and other countries. But couldn't go to Manipur. There is a grave crisis. Shouldn't the prime minister visit the state. It is shocking that till today, he hasn't made a single comment,” the Congress leader said.
Asked about the scuffle of wrestlers with police in Delhi on Sunday amid the agitation against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Chidambaram said the government's silence on the issue was equally shocking.
“For the last one month, the wrestlers are struggling and no minister has visited them, the government ignored their demands. For the sake of one MP, why are you allowing our medal winning wrestlers to go on dharna for 30 days?” he asked.
Governance and policies in a secular, democratic country must give rise to a tide that will lift all boats. In that view, the NDA government has totally failed in the last nine years, he claimed.
What is worse is that the government does not even make an effort to correct its mistakes and govern for all the people, he said.
Chidambaram said the countdown to the 2024 general elections has begun. The Opposition has been taking stock of the government's performance, he said, adding that the start of the 10th year (of the government) is an important juncture.
Replying to questions, the senior Congress leader said the Opposition unity is a "work in progress".
“On June 12, there is a meeting of Opposition parties in Patna. We hope to put up a united fight against the BJP. If the non-BJP Opposition parties get together, it is possible to field one common candidate (against the BJP) in 400-450 seats… that is the desire, aspiration. It is work in progress,” he said.
Chidambaram said there is evidence that Chinese troops have "encroached" upon the Indian territory.
China hasn't yielded a inch in numerous rounds of talks at different levels, he said. "China Pakistan axis has become stronger. Parliament is in dark about the actual situation," he claimed.
The Reserve Bank of India recently announced withdrawal of Rs 2,000 currency notes from circulation and asked people to deposit it in banks or get it exchanged by September 30.
"The thoughtless - some would even say foolish - introduction of the Rs 2,000 note and the mortifying spectacle of withdrawing the note have cast doubt on the integrity and stability of India's currency," Chidambaram said.
The Congress leader said he didn't agree with the RBI's explanation that the Rs 2,000 note was introduced to meet the immediate requirement of people.
“Within 30 days of its introduction, no one was using it. The notes didn't come to the people. It was a foolish move bringing the integrity of the currency system in question. The original decision to introduce it was foolish, but the government didn't want to admit it,” he charged.
Chidambaram also said the Centre's ordinance on control of services in Delhi was wrong.
“It is up to the Congress leadership to take a decision on what stand the party should take in Parliament,” he said.
Notably, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) last week said said the Centre's ordinance on the transfer of bureaucrats in Delhi is "unconstitutional" and a move to snatch the power given to the Delhi government by the Supreme Court in services matters.
Chidambaram said constitutional governance, defence and security, economy, inflation, unemployment, inequality and poverty were the main issues being faced by the country.
The first three quarters of 2022-23 recorded growth rates of 13.2 per cent, 6.3 per cent and 4.4 per cent, a declining trend. The present situation is a far cry from the average of nine per cent growth rate that marked the boom years between 2004 and 2009, he said.
The Indian economy is growing modestly at a much-reduced pace facing serious issues of unemployment, inflation, widening inequalities and stumbling welfare programmes, he said.
"The opposition is compelled to raise very serious questions about raging unemployment, persistent inflation, widening inequalities and stumbling welfare programmes. The all India unemployment rate is, currently, 7.45 per cent and the labour force participation rate is about 48 per cent. Prices are elevated and people are consuming less," Chidambaram said.
The Congress leader alleged that under the NDA government, freedom of speech and expression of citizens has been severely curbed through intimidation and slapping of false cases.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and/or its affiliated organisations have fuelled these trends with hyper-nationalism, vigilantism, religious intolerance, vandalism, hate speeches and extra-judicial actions, he charged, adding that "bulldozer justice has replaced natural justice."
"We are pained and shocked that the leadership of the NDA government has remained silent while the situation in the country has deteriorated year after year," he said.
Chidambaram also said the outcome of the recently held Karnataka Assembly elections demonstrated how wrong the prime minister, his government and his party were in their assessment of the political and social situation of the state.
The Congress returned to power in Karnataka after a gap of five years by defeating the BJP.
To a question on the Opposition boycotting the inauguration of the new Parliament building, Chidambaram said the Opposition wasn't disrespecting Parliament.
“No answers have been given as to why the President of India wasn't invited for the event,” he said. PTI