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Not all factors are under control of any govt: P. Chidambaram

Jun 20 2014, 19:45 IST
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Congress leader P. Chidambaram addresses the media at AICC office in New Delhi on Friday. PTI Congress leader P. Chidambaram addresses the media at AICC office in New Delhi on Friday. PTI
SummaryP. Chidambaram wished that the new govt is able to check inflation but felt it was a difficult task.

Conceding that inflation was "one of the reasons" for Congress' debacle in the Lok Sabha polls, senior party leader P. Chidambaram today said that the new dispensation will also soon learn that not all factors are under control of any government.

"I am not competent to comment on why Congress lost the elections. I assume that inflation was one of the reasons. That is a very logical conclusion...inflation certainly must have been one of reasons, why people voted against us", Chidambaram said.

The former finance minister, however wished that the new government is able to check inflation but felt it was a difficult task.

Amid concerns that growing incidences of violence in Iraq could escalate fuel prices thereby leading to hike in prices of other commodities, Chidmabaram said, "If fuel prices remain high, they will pose a problem to the new government."

Oil and gas stocks had fallen by as much as 6.2 per cent yesterday on continued upmove in crude prices due to unrest in Iraq and amid reports that higher gas pricing may be allowed only for incremental output.

Chidambaram said that there are many "headwinds" that a government has to come across and the situation in Iraq is only one of them.

"If fuel prices rise, the government will face difficulty ...it will then pose problems to the next government....Any new government will soon learn that not all factors are under control of any government," he said at the AICC briefing.

When asked how does he rated Jaitley as a Finance Minister, Chidambaram said with a smile "I am not a rating agency". "I do not give unsolicited advice," he said.

"Every government has faced inflation. Not every factor is under the control of the government. If fuel prices go up, inflation will happen. What the government will be able to do. ...Government has announced some set of measures. We had also announced similar set of measures.

"...Let me caution not all factors are within the control of the government, yet government should take all measures to bring down inflation," Chidambaram said.

Citing figures, Chidambaram claimed that the UPA was able to moderate inflation at the retail level from 13.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

Asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent pitch for tough decisions on economic front, Chidambaram said that he is welcome to do that as "hard decisions are required" but added that "every decision has to be measured in the context of economy at any given time.

"Let him take those decisions first," he said refraining from comment on the merit of Modi's statement regarding it.

Rebutting Modi on his remarks about the country's financial health during UPA, Chidambaram posed a number of questions.

"Did the prime minister refer to the cash balance of the government? Did the prime minister refer to the foreign exchange reserves?

"Did the prime minister refer to the outstanding liabilities of the central government?" Chidambaram asked wondering whether the prime minister meant what he said.

Giving figures on all these counts, Chidambaram accused the BJP and NDA of remaining in "campaign mode".

In a point-by-point reply to Modi, Chidambaram said that the Congress-led UPA Government has left a better cash balance, while the NDA had left behind an "empty treasury".

Pointing out that foreign exchange reserves before the NDA government assumed office was USD 304 billion, he said that foreign exchange reserve was just USD 113 billion, when the UPA Government had assumed office a decade back.

Listing out the initiatives of the then UPA government, Chidambaram said, the Congress-led government had left behind an economy, where the fiscal deficit has been reduced, current account deficit has been sharply contained.

Asked what are his expectations from the new budget, Chidambarma said that this question should be posed to the finance minister of the new government. He said that there is a new government and a new minister. "Let us see what they do," he said.

To a question on as to how Congress will act in Parliament in the Budget session, Chidambaram said,"We will play the role of a resolute, determined and responsible Opposition...Our party will be a responsible and formidable Opposition."

Asked about Leader of Opposition issue in Lok Sabha, he said that the position of LoP rightfully belongs to the largest political formation in the Opposition camp, which is the Congress party in the Lower House.

His comments comes at a time when the prospects of Congress getting the status of the Leader of Opposition appears to be dim with Congress securing only 44 seats, which is less than the required 10 per cent of the total strength of 543 in Lok Sabha.

On Vodafone issue, Chidambaram said that first one has to have a settlement and then amendment of law.

"Our government's position was if Vodafone came forward and settled the matter in a mutually satisfactory way through conciliation then that settlement can be reflected by amendment in Income Tax Act...I do not think the government had any option but to appoint an arbitrator.

"I do not know what the present government's position is. We will know only when the finance minister speaks in Parliament," he said.

There were reports that telecom giant Vodafone was allegedly approached by several countries, including India, to have access to phone calls and text messages on its network.

On e-Aadhar in the wake of Modi government scrapping the Cabinet Committee Unique Identification Authority (UIDAI), Chidambaram said that under the law today the Registrar General of India is in the process of preparing two registers- National Population Register and National Citizen Register.

"Only the home minister can answer it," he said when asked whether the government plans to rollback Aadhar.

To questions on Modi government's decision to wind up GoMs, he said that it will be "unfair" to say that all GoMs did not work.

He at the same time said that when the previous government demitted the office, the GoMs constituted during the period are automatically dissolved and are reconstituted.

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