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New Delhi: A Bharatiya Janata Party minister in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday, July 31, became the latest to blame India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, for a problem seen in current times.
Minister for Medical Education Vishvas Sarang said, “Inflation does not rise in a day or two. The foundation of the economy is not laid in a day or two. The country’s economy has deteriorated due to the mistakes of the speech that Jawaharlal Nehru delivered from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 1947.”
Sarang was speaking to reporters in Bhopal and was asked about a protest planned by the Congress over rising prices and other issues.
“Inflation would have been under control had the first prime minister of the country and his party left the economy in good shape…if the credit for increasing inflation by crippling the economy after the country’s independence goes to anyone, it is the Nehru family,” he said.
Nehru has emerged as a favourite of the BJP dispensation when it comes to accountability for present day problems. In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in parliament, “India did not get democracy due to Pandit Nehru, as Congress wants us to believe.”
In 2020, speaking in the Lok Sabha, Modi once again blamed Nehru for triggering the situation that necessitated the BJP government’s decision to bring the CAA. “Someone had to become Prime Minister so a line was drawn in India and the country was divided,” Modi said.
Sarang said that the Narendra Modi government, on the other hand, has strengthened the economy in the past seven years.
“The inflation is down and people’s incomes have increased during the BJP rule,” the minister claimed.
However, wholesale inflation hit a record high of almost 13% in May 2021, before dipping to 12% in June, posing a huge challenge to the Modi government in an economy already crippled by waves of the pandemic, according to Financial Times.
“The price increases hit India’s poor and middle classes, who have borne the brunt of the country’s pandemic-induced economic shocks,” the report notes.
Further, there is little to suggest that people’s incomes have increased during BJP rule, as the minister said. As Manoj Kumar noted for The Wire on the basis of a Pew Research Centre report, financial woes brought by last year’s pandemic have pushed about 32 million Indians out of the middle class, undoing years of economic gains and pushing millions into poverty.
Sarang also said that Congress workers should rather protest in front of 10, Janpath, where party president Sonia Gandhi lives.
Later, speaking to PTI, Sarang said the country’s economy was primarily based on agriculture, but Nehru neglected it.”Seventy per cent of our population is dependent on agriculture, but he did not care about this sector. The village economy was sustainable and self-reliant. He put his western mindset in this and ended the village economy,” he said.
“Industrialisation was fine, but it should have been based on agriculture,” he also said.
Sarang also said that the Kashmir dispute, internal security problems and cross-border issues owe their origins to Nehru’s time.
He also claimed that a river-linking project had been proposed by Nehru’s cabinet.
“The implementation of the river interlinking project then would have brightened the country’s future permanently…the country, which is dependent on agriculture, would have become fully irrigated,” he added.
Congress leaders, meanwhile, criticised Sarang’s comments.
MP Congress spokesperson K.K. Mishra said, “Vishwas Sarang, an eligible minister of Shivraj’s (Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan) circus, is blaming the country’s inflation on Nehru’s speech in 1947, when he was not even born. As a departmental minister, can you state if Nehru was also responsible for the thousands of deaths due to lack of beds, oxygen and Remdesivir during the coronavirus pandemic?”
Narendra Saluja, another Congress spokesperson, said the BJP ministry in MP was full of weird people.
“A minister starts climbing up an electricity poll to repair it, another talks about how many children a couple should have, yet another says that money should be charged for a selfie…Now, a minister is holding a speech delivered 75 years ago responsible for inflation. Why did the BJP then promise relief from inflation in its poll campaign?” he asked.
>(With PTI inputs)