On Wednesday, an opinion column by former finance minister and BJP veteran in The Indian Express tore into the ruling BJP government’s economic policy. The scathing critique didn’t shy away from pricking the “economic success” bubble parroted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet. However, it was Sinha’s biting assessment of finance minister Arun Jaitley, whom he held responsible for making a “mess” of the Indian economy, that sent shock waves in the BJP. 

Add to this, Sinha’s these lines from the column: “I am also convinced that what I am going to say reflects the sentiments of a large number of people in the BJP and elsewhere who are not speaking up out of fear.” 

BJP’s response 

This is not a happy story. And that’s why, most of the BJP leadership has refrained from commenting on Sinha’s article. Those who have responded have either expressed some verbal hyperbole about how Indian economy is the “world’s fastest growing economy” or remarked how all the policy-changes in economy will serve the poorest of the poor in the longer run!

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According to a report published in The Indian Express, the BJP has tasked Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to respond to Sinha’s criticism. 

“[It’s] probably the first time in history that India is driving world growth at the levels that we are today. If you see some of the landmark reforms this government has brought in, they are unprecedented. Something like GST was never imagined to be possible in a country of the size and scale of India. In fact, we are the largest country in the world to have implemented GST,” Goyal told reporters. 

The other response, even though reluctantly, came from Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

“As far as the economy is concerned, the whole world accepts the truth that India is the world’s fastest growing economy. No one should forget this truth. India has immense stature and credibility in the global economy,” he said.

If reports are believed, BJP also got Sinha’s son and Minister of State for Civil Aviation in Modi government, Jayant Sinha to counter the senior leader’s point of view. In an opinion piece published in Times of India on Thursday, junior Sinha gave a detailed outlook of the structural changes adopted by Modi government to make a ‘New India.’ While the article quoted a lot of schemes and figures, it lacked substance of argument to counter Sinha’s assessment of economy. 

Silence all over 

It’s interesting to note how all the three responses to Sinha’s criticism failed to answer or even address the questions raised by the senior BJP leader. There’s also a glaring similarity in all of the responses: the idea how the future economy will be like. No one asked: what about the present distress in the economy? 

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The BJP top brass also shied away to make any comment on the alleged role played by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the economic “mess”, the country currently finds itself. While BJP seems to be avoiding any public display of the in-party tension, Sinha’s article has also exposed the inner disappointment within the party over Modi’s let-it-happen attitude. Sinha’s criticism actually hints to change that. 

As pointed out by Sinha as well, the BJP might find it hard for its 2019 election campaign if there’s no end to the economic distress. Which is particularly worrying for BJP’s top architect Amit Shah. How will the uncertainty of future reflect on Jaitley’s prospects as Finance Minister remain to be seen. 

The critique also drew a blank silence from the usually Twitter-vocal BJP top brass. There were no tweets, no hashtags and of course, no trolls. 

Media blackout 

Hours after Sinha’s column became viral, the article was discussed by all the major news channels of the country threadbare. While many tried to seek expert views on the former finance minister’s perspective, others flashed passages from Sinha’s column. What was missing was reaction from any top BJP leader. 

Interestingly, a press conference on Sinha’s article by UPA finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram was telecast only by NDTV & Mirror, a National Herald report pointed out. While it’s hard to confirm if it was deliberate on part of certain media houses, silence is not among the best strategies BJP can choose to counter Sinha’s views in the longer run.  

Feature image source: PTI/File Photo