NEW DELHI: Even as Gujarat voted in the first phase of the 2107 Assembly elections, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tore into the Conrgess’s campaign in the state. In a lengthy social media post, Jaitley critiqued what he called the ‘myths’ underlying the poll strategy of the grand old party.
“The two important limbs of the Congress manifesto comprise of one – a constitutional impossibility – and the other – a fiscal impossibility. The Congress Party can well afford this risk since its victory is a political improbability,” said Jaitley in his post targeting a number of the Congress’s key poll planks in Gujarat.
Jaitley dismissed the Congress campaign as disconnected from the ground realities, claiming the party had sidelined its own state level leadership. He said it had outsourced its prerogative to people who had nothing to do with the party.
This was a shot at the Congress’s working relationship with Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani. All three of the young leaders have taken strident anti-BJP stances.
“The Party has disconnected the traditional issues on which it has been campaigning since 2002 and opted for a divisive agenda of social repolarisation. The State paid a heavy price for such mis-adventures in the 1980s and would be very reluctant to repeat this experiment after having liberated itself from caste wars,” said Jaitley in a post on Facebook.
He also sought to undermine a key component of the Congress’s poll efforts – the agreement with the Patidar community, which has been agitating for reservation.
Jaitley recounted Supreme Court judgements that have underlined that reservations cannot exceed 50 percent. “A promise of reservations beyond 50 percent has been made by the Congress and the PAAS to the people of Gujarat. This act of self-deception is a constitutional impossibility – which will never be judicially permissible,” he said.
The Union Finance Minister defended the so-called ‘Gujarat model of development’, claiming it had ensured 10 percent annual growth in the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) over a 15-year period, and that the Congress wanted to wish away.
The Congress’s own economic plank for the state drew specific criticism in Jaitley’s post. He noted that the party had promised tax waivers of Rs 20,000 crore against total revenues of Rs 90,000 crore. He also roundly attacked the Rs 1,21,000 crore in populist expenditure schemes.
“It doubles the expenditure while reducing the income, which is a fiscal nightmare. Even a fiscal miracle does not permit this,” he said.
Jaitley’s critique came in a Facebook post in the early hours of polling the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections 2017. The first phase is seeing polling in 89 of the 182 constituencies. The second phase of the election is scheduled for December 14, with counting on December 18.