INDORE — Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday accused the government of making a “careful, well-thought-out calibrated effort” to weaken democracy and lamented that the credibility of institutions like Parliament and the CBI was being “systematically denigrated”.
Singh levelled the allegation at a news conference in Indore ahead of the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh on 28 November.
The BJP rejected Singh’s charge while the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) did not react.
The BJP alleged that Singh’s Congress-led government in its 10-year rule had always put pressure on institutions like the CBI while the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi “respects” institutions and does not interfere in their functioning.
“Nobody is harming or weakening any institution. It is our government that is giving them independence to express their views and in economic policy. Singh should know that there are always difference of opinion and there are multiple options in research allocation,” BJP spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal said in New Delhi.
In a veiled reference to developments in the RBI and CBI, Singh said the Modi government is trying to prevail over big institutions, adding this was detrimental to democracy and the law of the land.
“The country has witnessed credibility of institutions like Parliament and CBI systematically denigrated. There is a careful, well-thought-out and calibrated effort to weaken democracy,” he said.
“The rule of law is under attack. History shall never forgive our present generation if the situation is not changed,” he added.
Alleging that the relationship between the RBI and the Finance Ministry has hit a low, the former Union finance minister said there is a need for “harmony and coordination”.
“The RBI governor and finance minister have a delicate relationship. Both have to work together. Even though the job of running the country rests with the government, specific responsibility is given to the RBI governor by the RBI Act. There is a need to recognise inter-dependence of the two entities and work in harmony,” he said.
“I am happy with the efforts being made to bring reconciliation. Both need to work in harmony with each other.”
Singh termed demonetisation as “organised loot and legalised plunder”. “This is a done act and can’t be reverted. It is up to the people to get rid of the government which brought them on this disastrous path,” he said.
The note ban and the “flawed” Goods and Services Tax (GST) of the NDA government have caused a “great damage” to the unorganised sector, Singh said. “The note ban failed to achieve its goal.”
Singh also alleged that corruption was peaking in the Modi government.
Asked about his 2014 comments that Modi as prime minister would be a disaster to the country, he said he did not want to comment on his earlier remarks. “I used harsh words which I should not have. Now people will make the decision,” he added.
Singh accused Modi of misusing the prime minister’s post. “It does not befit the prime minister to abuse political opponents,” he said, adding Modi was using “unparliamentary words” against the opposition.
On the controversial Rafale deal, he said it needs a thorough investigation through a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe. “Modi is not going in for the constitution of the JPC, which gives an impression that something is amiss”, he said, adding this has given rise to a “great deal of suspicion” in the minds of people.
On steps needed to improve the economy, Singh said infrastructure investment should increase and national savings rate should be encouraged.
“In our (Congress-led regime) time, the national saving rate was 35 to 36 percent. Now it is 28 percent,” he said. If the GDP rate needs to grow to 10 percent, the national savings rate and infrastructure investment needs to grow, he added.
Asked if the Congress will be able to revive itself, Singh said the party faced problems since the 2014 elections.
“The reason was the ability of the opposition to mislead the media and the general public about the so-called corruption and we were not able to carry the conviction to convey our point of view,” he said.
Singh denied Modi’s claim that the UPA government led by him was a “remote-controlled” one.
“The success of my government was because the party and government were on one page. There was no difference of opinion,” he said.
The BJP promised to bring back money stashed in banks abroad but this turned out to be a hollow claim, he said.
The Modi government’s “Make in India” programme has proved to be just a jumla (stunt), he said.
The BJP-led government promised to generate two crore jobs annually but this has turned out to a gimmick, he said.
He also rubbished Modi’s claim that the UPA government discriminated against Madhya Pradesh. “Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan should stand a witness to it,” he said.
“Vyapam (an entrance examination, admission and recruitment scam unearthed in Madhya Pradesh in 2013) marred the future of the state’s youth, while Narmada river has been plundered by the sand mafia,” Singh added.