The meeting at Prime Minister’s 7 Lok Kalyan Marg residence comes a day after he lashed out at his critics and said economy was on the right track
A day after he criticised the “handful of people” who have been critical of his government’s economic policies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is finally meeting with Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and BJP national president Amit Shah ostensibly to discuss the economy.
The meeting, currently underway at the Prime Minister’s 7, Lok Kalyan Marg residence, comes in the backdrop of mounting criticism of Jaitley’s inability to stabilize the economy and scathing attacks by BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie directed at the PM and his finance minister over demonetisation and a hasty GST rollout.
That the Prime Minister could summon Jaitley and Shah to discuss ways of changing the perception of an impending doom in the Indian economy and effectively countering claims made by critics – especially by BJP insiders – over the economic slowdown, was a foregone conclusion.
However, what will be interesting to look out for is the result of Thursday’s meeting of the Modi-Shah-Jaitley troika, which former Union minister and BJP veteran Arun Shourie has repeatedly derided as the “government of two and a half persons”.
The importance of the meeting can be gauged by the fact that Shah had to cut short his three-day tour of Kerala and Karnataka to reach New Delhi on Thursday for the discussions with Modi and Jaitley.
Sources said that the meeting has two key agendas – discuss ways of changing the narrative over the fledgling economy and offset the political damage that the BJP is likely to face if the Opposition and more leaders from within the BJP-RSS saffron parivar continue with stinging criticism of the Centre – Modi and Jaitley in particular – over flawed economic policies.
While no immediate clarity is expected on measures that the government would undertake, it is likely that Jaitley’s ministry could fasten the pace of announcing a stimulus package for economic revival.
The meeting is taking place a day after Modi was forced to personally counter the criticism being hurled at his government for its perceived failure to sustain India’s economic growth, create jobs and deliver on its tall poll promises of putting the country on an unprecedented upward growth trajectory.
Addressing a meeting of Company Secretaries, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said on Wednesday that a “handful of people” were trying to spread a wave of pessimism and despair based on the slowdown experienced during just a quarter – a reference to the GDP growth rate hitting a three-year low of 5.7 per cent.
“I will not jeopardise the future of the country for my present gains,” Modi had said, while adding: “There are some people who sleep well only after they spread a feeling of pessimism. We need to recognise such people”.
However, even though the Prime Minister tried hard to project as if all was well with the economy and that India’s growth story was still on the right track despite evidence to the contrary, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had already punctured Modi’s claims a few hours before his address to the Company Secretaries by reducing India’s growth projections for this fiscal from 7.3 per cent to 6.7 per cent.