At Agenda Aaj Tak in New Delhi on Friday, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, and Congress MP Manish Tewari fought it out over the issue of inflation. Excerpts from the session ‘Mehangai Ka Mudda’.
Q: Have you ever gone out to buy tomatoes?
RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR: This is not a trivial issue. We are coming out of Covid after 19 months. We’re reaching this stage after an unprecedented global crisis. We shouldn’t forget the global economic disruptions. Inflation has a direct correlation with international fuel prices that have constantly gone up in the last 12 months. As a net importing nation, it’s impossible for us to remain immune. The narrative that India is an island is wrong.
There is no contradiction in what I wear (dhoti) and my tech identity. I didn’t wear this when I came to Delhi because of different riti-riwaz. But this is who I am, and I will stay this way.
Q: These are the explanations that your [UPA] government used to give
MANISH TEWARI: When Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tabled the 2020-21 Budget in Parliament, she said 27 crore people were pulled above the poverty line between 2006 and 2016. This wasn’t said by UPA or Congress. This was said by BJP’s Finance Minister. This was despite the global economic crisis, the Eurozone crisis. India’s economy kept growing at more than 8% for 10 years. Unfortunately, BJP came to power in 2014, and due to note ban imposed by the PM, the economy went downhill. Rajeev Chandrasekhar ji is right; crude oil prices in the international market are rising, but crude oil prices had been at a historic low between 2014 and 2020. But during that period, the BJP-led NDA government levied taxes and realised Rs seven lakh crore from the people of India.
Q: The government imposes tax, withdraws it, then pats its back. Why does everything come under control during elections?
RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR: Please understand the fiscal pressure due to the 19 months of Covid. Our economy was contracting, and on the other hand, the government’s expenditures were rising. The government has to explore options to increase revenue realisation. We didn’t cut any social programmes; in fact, we expanded them. Money has been realised and spent for the benefit of common people. When natural, organic revenue is growing, the economy is bouncing back, excise duty has been cut.
Q: Is it a coincidence that UP is going to the polls?
RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR: If you want to link, also link the GST revenue growth to UP polls.
Q: Rahul Gandhi is criticising the government for every move it makes. But many initiatives were taken during UPA’s time.
MANISH TEWARI: PM Modi said MGNREGA is a scheme to dig and fill pits. If that was the case, when didn’t you close it down? Today’s MGNREGA’s demand is the highest since 2005, when the programme was started. It means India has a severe agrarian distress. So, it’s not only about inflation. So, don’t blame it on the international market. You [BJP] have demolished India’s economy.