Jaitley & Yashwant Sinha In War of Words Over ‘Job Applicant’ Jibe

“I don’t have the luxury as yet of being ex-finance minister or a finance minister-turned-columnist,” said Jaitley.

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Speaking at the launch of a book titled ‘India @ 70, Modi @ 3.5’ in New Delhi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 28 September took to the podium to speak on the accusations levelled against him over the past few days of contributing to the economic slowdown.

Breaking his silence on the criticism by fellow party leader Yashwant Sinha (84) in an article, Jaitley hit back, calling him a ‘job applicant at 80 years, who has forgotten his record as finance minister and is commenting on persons rather than policies’.

Responding to Jaitley’s comment, Yashwant Sinha said that if he were to be a job applicant then Jaitley “wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

In an interview with The Indian Express, Sinha said that it was not a personal attack, but for matters of the economy only the Finance Minister will be blamed, not the Home Minister.

“By pitting my son Jayant against me, they are trying to obfuscate issues. I can also get personal but I don’t want to fall into that trap.”

Jaitley spoke predominantly on the GST’s implementation and demonetisation, two economic reforms he has come under fire for.


‘Don’t Have the Luxury of Being a Former Finance Minister’

Defending the GST, he said that everybody had pitched for a ‘single tax’ uniformly. “Only those who pushed country to policy paralysis wanted it to be postponed,” he said. Further citing an increase of 15.7 percent in direct taxes, he said that the “so-called economic slowdown” had not impacted tax collection.

On demonetisation, he said the exercise had become synonymous with confiscation of currency when in reality it was “so that anonymous tenders operating in market get identified with its owner.”

Then addressing the accusations made by P Chidambaram and Yashwant Sinha, both former Finance Ministers, he said:

I do not have the luxury as yet of being a former finance minister, or a finance minister-turned-columnist.

The current Finance Minister said he had done a little research to pull out what Sinha and Chidambaram had to say about each other in the past.

Quoting the war of words that had ensued between his two criticisers when Chidambaram was Finance Minister, Jaitley said Sinha had accused Chidambaram of ‘running the economy to the ground’.

The former finance minister had also accused Chidambaram of being "the most conceited person" who bugged his phones, Jaitley said in an apparent reference to comments made by Sinha.

One said of the other: ‘Chidambaram will have to be born again to match my record as finance minister’.
Arun Jaitley

Then quoting Chidambaram's rebuttal to Sinha's then statement, Jaitley read out:

The four years under Sinha’s tenure, particularly 2001-2002 and 2002-2003, were the worst years since liberalisation, forcing Vajpayee to replace him as FM. 

‘Focus on Issues Rather Than Persons’

Recalling a parliamentary debate on Bofors in 1999 shortly after he entered the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said veteran leader LK Advani complimented him for his speech but advised him to focus on issues rather than persons.

I have tried to follow it. I may have breached this rule once in a while. I have some very distinguished predecessors in the Finance Ministry. One is a former Prime Minister and one is a former President. But I am not referring to them. The others (Sinha and Chidambaram) have decided to act in concert because speaking on persons and bypassing the issues is something easily done.
Arun Jaitley 
Closing his speech, he made a sweeping remark with the statement: “Instead of naming the book ‘India @ 70, Modi @ 3.5’, it should be named India @ 70, Modi @ 3.5 and Job applicant @ 80.”

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