Tearing into the Congress and other opposition parties, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday called the proposed grand alliance an anarchic combination, the likes of which were “tried, tested and failed” in India.
Speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here, the Minister said the experiment of grand alliances leads to instability where policy gets killed and the longevity of the government is reduced to a few months.
He also attacked Congress President Rahul Gandhi on the non-performing assets (NPA) issue saying he needed to “grow up” and understand the issue before indulging in a public debate.
Jaitley said there had been a lot of talk of a grand alliance in the last few months.
“Grand alliances in India are tried, tested and failed ideas. It’s an experiment where policy gets killed and the longevity of the government is of a few months,” he said.
The senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader added that he was not against coalitions, but the nucleus of the alliance must be “very large” with smaller groups aligned around them, like in the case of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had 183 MPs supporting him in the BJP and the incumbent Narendra Modi who had the support of 282 MPs.
“You can’t have the nucleus of a handful of people. Because that’s, per se, is an unstable nucleus. You can’t have an alliance with some political parties whose leaders are temperamentally mavericks, some whose interests are purely regional — give my state some extra money — and others who only want some criminal cases to be closed.
“So if you get together this kind of a crowd, then 2019 will be choice between a stable government with a coherent policy and a strong leader versus a completely anarchic combination,” Jaitley said.
He added that India could not afford to miss another opportunity to grow at a fast pace like it did multiple times in history.
“We missed the industrial revolutions when the world progressed. And even in the 60s and the 70s, when we had the opportunity to open up, we were still a regulated economy. So when China started growing, we missed that opportunity,” he said.
“History does not visit you again and again with opportunities. For the first time it’s visiting you with an opportunity where India is consistently growing fast notwithstanding global slowdown and various factors,” he added.
He said this was a time when India needed coherence in governance and policy and could not afford to go for “an anarchic kind of a combination”.
“And I think aspirational societies never commit suicides. So I am very clear what will happen in 2019,” the Minister said.
Responding to Rahul Gandhi’s statement that the NPA crisis got worse after the BJP took over the reins of the government in 2014, Jaitley said Gandhi did not have a fair understanding of the issue.
“Some people need to grow up and understand the issue. A debate on the NPA issue has to be a grown-up debate. It can’t be that you, on the surface, realise a slogan without understanding the issue,” he said.
Jaitley said that for the Congress President, NPA was the same thing as a waiver of loans.
He said the genesis of the NPA problem was the indiscriminate lending by banks during the UPA era, followed by the evergreening of loans thereafter.
He said the actual NPAs were over Rs 8.5 lakh crore when the BJP came to power as against Rs 2.5 lakh crore which were reflected in the books.
He said the rest of the NPAs were brushed under the carpet and were exposed after he, along with the then RBI Governor, decided to do an asset quality review of the banks.
“You gave these fraudulent loans that we are struggling to bring them in by legislating… And that’s why I say a debate has to be an informed debate. You need to grow up if you are debating on public issues and understand the issue beyond just the slogan,” he said.