New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday strongly retorted a sarcastic comment from Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw on her presence on a cabinet decision (on e-cigarettes) that was not related to the Finance Ministry.
To a suggestion by Shaw that Sitharaman should rather announce some fiscal measures to support growth, the Minister responded that she has been speaking about the economic measures taken by he government regularly.
The online barbs started with Shaw commenting on Twitter: "E-cigarettes banned, says Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman - should this not come from the Minister of Health? How about banning gutka too? How about MoF announcing some fiscal measures to revive economy?"
Not to be known for backing out, Sitharaman was ready for the online attack and reverted with a series of tweets : "As Finance Minister, you might've observed, I've been working on and regularly speaking about measures we've been taking on matters of the economy."
Sitharaman explained Shaw that she had made the announcement after the cabinet meeting as chairperson of a Group of Ministers (GoM).
"Kiran ji, a few things. This press conference was dedicated to cabinet decisions. I began by saying that I was there in my capacity as Chair of the GoM which has dealt with the matter. Dr Harsh Vardhan is out of country for an international meet," said the Finance Minister.
"Cabinet Ministers join Prakash Javadekar, the Information and Broadcasting Minister, when required. Health Secretary was also with me, explaining details. These are protocols, as you know, which government press conferences follow."
Shaw seeing the reasoned response from Sitharaman ended the exchanges by saying: "I now understand and I stand corrected. Thanks for explaining my confusion. Really grateful for your response."
Over the past few weeks, the Minister has been addressing regular press briefings to announce, in tranches, measures to boost the economy after a six-year low in GDP growth in the first quarter of 2019-20."
Since August 23, Sitharaman has announced the reversal of FPI surcharge, front-loading of PSU bank recaps of Rs 55,250 crore, the consolidation of 10 banks into four, Rs 20,000 crore stress fund for unfinished non-NCLT housing projects, sops for the auto sector, easing export finance among others to push up growth which has now sunk to 5 per cent in Q1-- six year low.