Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday gave examples from the epic Mahabharata to take digs at critics, both within the party and outside, of his government’s handling of the Indian economy and the Doklam standoff. Opposition party Congress described his speech as “melodramatic theatrics”.
In his speech, Modi admitted for the first time that there was an economic slowdown but advised his critics not to spread negativity and promised steps to put the economy on the path of recovery.
The PM said that the Indian economy was on firm footing and that he will never jeopardise the country’s future for immediate gains.
In an over hour-long speech, punctuated with sharp comments and comparisons with the track record of previous UPA regime, Modi told a gathering of Company Secretaries that his government will continue reforms and will not hesitate to take decisions to reverse the GDP slowdown witnessed in the last two quarters.
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Modi compared his government’s performance with that of the earlier Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, saying inflation had fallen from 10 per cent to 2.5 per cent, current account deficit had slid from 4 per cent to around 1 per cent, fiscal deficit had come down from 4.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent and foreign exchange reserves had increased from 30,000 crore dollars to 40,000 crore dollars.
The Prime Minister mentioned Mahabharata’s characters like Shalya (charioteer of king Karna), Kaurava prince Duryodhana, and Pandava prince Yudhisthir during his hour-long speech at the Vigyan Bhavan here before young Company Secretaries.
He also mentioned Chanakya, a teacher-philosopher, to prove his points.
“There was a character named Shalya in Mahabharata. He was a charioteer of Karna. He used to discourage everybody in the battlefield and also created an atmosphere of dismay. Shalya lived during Mahabharata times but such instincts are still present in society,” Modi said without taking names.
He said such people get pleasure in creating an atmosphere of dismay.
“For such people, lower growth rate of one quarter of the fiscal has become the biggest news. When data are in their favour, the institutes and processes are okay for them but when the data are not in their favour, they criticise institutes and processes,” he said amid chants of Modi-Modi.
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Modi’s dig at his critics comes amid a raging debate over the state of the Indian economy after a stinging attack by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha and the Opposition over slowdown and job losses.
Citing figures on improvement in rate of inflation, current account deficit, fiscal deficit, foreign direct investment and foreign exchange reserve, Modi said these successes do not matter for his critics.
“It’s time for the country to think whether some economists are working in the country’s interest or some political interests,” he said.
Attacking his critics, the Prime Minister also mentioned the 75-day Doklam standoff in Sikkim Sector with China and said: “When Doklam happened… they said we can’t do anything… some people take great pleasure in spreading dismay… they had very sound sleep…”
The Prime Minister told the Company Secretaries that their advice impacts corporate governance in one way or the other and gave the examples of Yudhisthir and Duryodhana, saying the two had similar education but the former strove on the path of righteousness while the latter deviated from the right path.
Modi also referred to the teachings of Chanakya, saying a single person who has gone astray can cause damage to the reputation as a single tree can cause fire in a jungle.
“In our country, there are a handful of people who damage the country’s prestige and weaken the societal structure,” he said.
Modi’s speech ‘melodramatic theatrics’: Congress
The Congress on Wednesday hit out at Prime Minister Modi over his speech that praised his government’s performance, saying “melodramatic theatrics” can never substitute solid facts and all economy drivers were “sputtering and stumbling.”