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Arun Jaitley hits back, tells Yashwant Sinha to look back at his own record as FM

A day after former Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, in an opinion piece in The Indian Express, critiqued the growth slowdown and the government's handling of economic issues, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley responded on Thursday saying he does not have the "luxury yet of being a former finance minister" to "conveniently forget a policy paralysis" or of having been removed as finance minister.

Speaking at the release of the book India @ 70, Modi @ 3.5: Capturing India's Transformation Under Narendra Modi by Bibek Debroy and Ashok Malik, Jaitley took a jibe at Sinha, without naming him, to say that perhaps the book should have been named "India@70, Modi@3.5 and job applicant@80".

"I do not have the luxury as yet of being a former finance minister. Nor do I have the luxury of being a former finance minister who has turned a columnist and, therefore, I can conveniently forget a policy paralysis, I can conveniently forget the 15 per cent NPAs of 1998-2002, I can conveniently forget the $4-billion reserve left in 1991 and I can switch over and change a narrative," Jaitley said.

Without naming predecessors Sinha and P Chidambaram, Jaitley said they have "decided to act in concert because speaking on persons and then bypassing the issues is something which is very easily done".

He said he had done his own "little research" and went on to cite remarks made by Sinha against Chidambaram in the past.

"One said of the other: Chidambaram will have to be born again to match my record as a finance minister. He then linked Finance Minister Chidambaram to an incompetent doctor for failing to curb India's alarming fiscal deficit and then he went on and said 'I accuse him of running the economy down to the ground.' He then said that 'Chidambaram is the most conceited person.' He then went on to accuse him of bugging his phones. Today with complete responsibility I want to say when I raise the issue of Aircel-Maxis, Chidambaram ordered my phone to be bugged," Jaitley said of Sinha.

And referring to Chidambaram's past remarks against Sinha, he said, "The other one was not to be left behind and he said, 'I thought Sinha would be happy to remain a distant memory for the people of India. However, since he seems determined to stay relevant in his party, I am obliged to call his record during his four years as finance minister. I may point out that 2000-01 and 2002-03 were the worst years since liberalisation in terms of growth and PM Vajpayee had then to force him out and replace him'."