New Delhi, May 25: In his strongest criticism of the economic policies of the NDA government timed to coincide with the completion of its first year in office, former finance minister P. Chidambaram has accused the Narendra Modi government of lacking an economic vision.
In an interview to India Today channel's "To The Point" programme broadcast on Monday night, Chidambaram said the first year of the Modi government in office is a story of missed opportunities.
While complimenting the government for continuing the direct benefit subsidy transfer policy and the other policies of the previous UPA government, he said the biggest minus was the government's handling of agriculture.
The lack of attention to agriculture, he told journalist Karan Thapar, "means that agricultural livelihoods are not improving, agricultural income is stagnating, and, therefore, agricultural demand is stagnating".
"This will have an impact both on Make in India and, more importantly, any hope of getting to 8, leave aside 10 percent growth," he added.
He also accused the government of damaging cuts in welfare schemes designed for the poor, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Chidambaram went on to question why his successor, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had altered the fiscal deficit targets that he had set as the previous one, and said doing so is a mistake.
Jaitley had, in his first full union budget in February, extended the target deadline for controlling fiscal deficit to three percent, reasoning that insistence on a timetable to contain the deficit would harm growth prospects.
The targets for the next three years have been set at 3.9 percent for 2015-16, 3.5 percent for 2016-17, and 3.0 percent for 2017-18.
Describing the government's Make in India campaign as "just a clever slogan", Chidambaram said Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rangarajan has recently shown that projects worth some 7 percent of GDP are stalled, adding that the first thing that must be done is to clear these projects.
"Absolutely nothing has happened because no one has come to Make in India," he said.
On insurance, Chidambaram pointed out that Jaitley can hardly claim credit for raising the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit when the latter and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj stalled this same measure during the UPA years.
At a press conference here earlier in the day, Chidambaram rejected assertions by the ruling NDA that the opposition was trying to "obstruct" key bills in parliament.
"Did we obstruct the insurance bill? They (NDA) did it for five (parliament) sessions. I was virtually imploring them to pass it. Did we obstruct the black money bill," he asked.
Accusing the NDA yet again of being pro-corporate, he said: "If you ask the farmer, the average farmer today will give a zero out of 10 (to the government). But if you ask a big industrialist, he will, of course, give 10 out of 10. So it depends on who you are asking the question."