Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday hit out at BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi`s brand of capitalism as "crony capitalism", said there are "deep flaws" in his character and warned people against the "danger" from one individual taking over the party, cabinet and government.
"It is no longer BJP led by Modi. It is BJP supplanted by Modi. These are dangerous things that people of India must watch carefully. If party, democracy, republic, cabinet, government, everything is supplanted by one individual, then it is dangerous.
"I, me, mine (of Modi)....People have enough time to reflect", the senior congress leader told reporters at the AICC headquarters here.
Chidambaram`s attack came close on the heels of Modi targeting Sonia Gandhi at an election rally in Assam and demanding that she come clean on who helped the two Italian marines get "safe passage" from the country after killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast.
"Sonia Gandhi should answer the people on who helped the two Italian marines get safe passage from India after killing two fishermen in Kerala," he said.
Hitting out at Modi, Chidambaram said, "There are deep flaws in his character. He cannot resist from making such provocative and derogatory remarks."
The Finance Minister said that Modi had made "such perverse characterisation" of a former Chief Election Commissioner by calling him as `James Michael Lyngdoh` in election meetings apparently referring to his religion.
"Referring to people practising a certain faith, he had said `ham panch, hamare pachis. (we five, our 25)`. When he referred to the Congress President sometime back, he said `das numberi`," Chidambaram said.
He said he was "astonished" by the fact that the party to which he belonged does not point out these "deep character flaws" in Modi. "These are the traits in his character about which we have been talking for the last two years."
Turning to the Italian marines issue, Chidambaram wondered what the country of the Congress President`s origin had to do with it as it was a matter before the Supreme Court and the issue was between the lawyers and the courts.
Chidambaram also attacked Modi for his remarks that he would go after the former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, fielded by Congress from Nanded, in the Adarsh Housing scam.
"Is he going to appoint himself as a Director of CBI. Modi has said that he will go after Chavan, that is an astonishing statement. But if he is appointing himself as CBI Director, then he will have to go against several others in his own party from the south of the Vindhyas and east of the Vindhyas. There are several people", he said.
He was asked about Modi`s statement against Chavan while ignoring the CBI charge sheet against a BJP MP from Maharashtra, Ajay Sancheti, who has been accused of having eight benami flats in the Adarsh society.
Modi`s Brand of Crony Capitalism
"Business is quite comfortable with Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA finance ministers but there are sections of businesses which are extremely comfortable with Mr Narendra Modi because his brand of capitalism is crony capitalism," he said at a press conference at the AICC headquarters here.
Chidambaram said the economy is in much better shape, with foreign exchange reserves rising and the fiscal and current account deficits firmly under control.
"The economy today is far more stable and far stronger than what it was 20 months ago and what we fear may happen has not happened. And going forward, I can only see spirited growth in the economy, provided the next government adheres to the 10-point agenda that I have outlined in my interim budget," he said.
Chidambaram, who has opted out of the elections, asserted that the next finance minister would not be of Modi`s choosing, adding, "I will keep a firm hand on the wheel till the last day and I will hand over the wheel to a firm hand."
The minister said the government has been able to contain the fiscal deficit and the current account deficit (CAD).
"Our reserves today have crossed USD 300 billion. We expect to add USD 25 billion by end of today to our reserves. And CAD, which is originally estimated at under USD 60 billion, is now likely to be much smaller. Perhaps about USD 35 billion...Nobody talks about a downgrade anymore, the fundamentals have strengthened," he added.
Chidambaram even dismissed questions raised by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha against him on the economy as "puerile".
On the 18 questions raised by Sinha, Chidambaram said, "Many of them are quite puerile questions...Mr Sinha today is a distant memory for the people of India and I hope he remains where he is -- a distant memory."
Accusing Chidambaram of playing "spoiler" and "ruining" the economy, Sinha had sought replies on issues such as declining growth, rising inflation and a poor track record on job creation.
Referring to inflation, Chidambaram said, "We have contained inflation. I am not saying that we have tamed inflation, but we have moderated it."
Wholesale price-based inflation eased to a nine-month low of 4.68 per cent in February, while retail inflation slowed to a 25-month low of 8.1 per cent.
Replying to questions on reduction of import duty on gold, Chidambaram said the government could consider some relaxation in consultation with the Reserve Bank.
"Let the RBI`s monetary policy be announced tomorrow and then we will consider whether some relaxation can be done," he said.
On the issue of new bank licences, Chidambaram said the RBI had sought the approval of the Election Commission only out of abundant caution and suggested that the process of issuing new licences should continue without interruption.
Regarding the controversial gas pricing issue, the minister said the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas should not have sought the approval of the Election Commission since the issue had already been cleared by the Cabinet.
"I think there is no case to revisit the Cabinet decision. The Cabinet decision is a right decision. It has taken into account all pros and cons, including reservations expressed by different ministries. So the Cabinet decision is the right decision and I would defend the Cabinet decision," he said.
Asked about the reluctance of the Swiss government to share banking data, Chidambaram noted that if Switzerland can share the information with the US, they can do so with India.
"I intend to raise it (sharing of bank information) in the G20 which meets in Washington on the sidelines of the Fund-Bank meeting on April 10-11. And later, on every forum we will raise the issue that Switzerland is non-compliant with the G20 resolution that the era of bank secrecy is over," he said.
With PTI Inputs