New Delhi, Oct 4: Days after former finance minister and veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha targeted the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government over the mess created in the economy by finance minister Arun Jaitley, another veteran leader of the saffron party, Arun Shourie in an exclusive interview to NDTV lashed out at the Centre over its failed economic policies, especially demonetisation or note ban.
Shourie on Tuesday called demonetisation "the largest money laundering scheme ever" that had given India an "idiotic jolt". He told NDTV that withdrawing the high-value currency notes last November was responsible for the economic slowdown in India.
"It was the largest money laundering scheme ever, conceived and implemented entirely by the government," Shourie said, adding that demonetisation had allowed black money hoarders to convert their cash into white.
The former Union minister Shourie likened demonetisation with suicide, saying the latter is too "a bold step".
He also called the Modi government as "government of two-and-a-half persons".
"This is a government by 'ilhaam' (revelation). The Prime Minister has the 'ilhaam' one night that demonetisation should be done and he does it. In any case it was a bold step. I have to remind you suicide too is a bold step," Shourie said.
Modi announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes on November 8 last year.
"Which argument (offered by the government in defence of demonetisation) today survives? Black money? All of it turned white. Terrorism? Terrorists are still coming into India. At the end they have nothing to say," he added.
Shourie also took a dig at BJP president Amit Shah who has said that current slowdown is "due to technical reasons", terming him "that famous economist?" and underscoring that official figures cannot be brushed under the carpet.
He also said those running the government do not seek any advice or hear the facts.
"This is a government of two-and-a-half persons, that is, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and one in-house lawyer. They don't have the expertise and they have surrounded themselves by persons who don't have the expertise.
"They are now in a sealed echo-chamber. They don't hear what is happening. The distress the RBI has documented of small and medium enterprise. These poor fellows had been clamouring and shouting. Nobody heard them," he added.
He said that persons like Sinha, P Chidambaram and several other economists have been "talking about facts".
"And those facts emerge from official reports such as The Economic Survey, the RBI surveys, the SBI's report etc. Is it a fact or not that GDP has collapsed to 3.7 per cent according to the old series? Is it a fact or not that index of industrial production has gone down from about 9 per cent in 2015-16 to about 1.7 per cent in April to July? Is it not a matter of concern?" Shourie said.
However, he said, despite all the red signals, there was little hope of a course change as "it all flows from the nature of the government" and the Modi government has a "sense of hustings".
"Their core competence is event management. They are so self-satisfied with it. They are just briefing each other, not listening to others... They are concerned about 300-feet statute, bullet trains etc," he said.
On BJP and government functionaries calling former Union minister Sinha a "frustrated" person after he lashed out at the government, Shourie said it was "their standard operating procedure".
"Whenever they are confronted with inconvenient facts, they try to bury it in avalanche of abuse. I have a constructive suggestion for them. They should publish a list of persons in advance who they think are frustrated," he said.
He said that the government's policies must have predictability, stability and credibility -- all of which is totally absent now -- so that investors and industry are sure of what they can expect from the government and not taken by surprise by out of the blue announcements followed by policy flip flops as has happened under the present regime, be it demonetisation or GST implementation.
It seems the BJP-led government at the Centre is currently facing a tough challenge as some of the party's veteran leaders like Sinha and Shourie are hell-bent on criticising the government's "failed" economic policies.