Gandhinagar: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear on Tuesday that Narendra Modi as chief minister had never met him to discuss the issue of Narmada dam.
Singh’s rebuttal came weeks after Modi alleged that although he met the then prime minister several times on the issue of raising the height of the dam, there was no assurance from the erstwhile UPA government on finishing the project.
‘‘Modiji never held any meeting with me on the issue of the dam,” Singh said, while replying to a question about the Narmada project at a press conference. ‘‘In fact, when the World Bank stopped aid for the construction of the dam in 1992, I, as finance minister, intervened and we ensured that the project gets all the money it required,’’ he explained.
During his Vadodara visit last month, Modi had claimed that every time he went to meet Singh to make a representation about the dam, the then prime minister would feign ignorance about the stalled work.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani hit back at Singh, insisting numerous representations were made in the past. “Even I went to meet Singh numerous times for the Narmada project when I was a Member of Parliament between 2006 and 2012. But they (the UPA government) did not give permission to install gates for seven long years. Singh owes an explanation to the people of Gujarat,” Rupani said.
Nearly 56 years after its foundation was laid, the Sardar Sarovar dam became a reality with Modi dedicating it to the nation on September 17 this year. In the context of demonetisation, Singh expressed the wish that Prime Minister Narendra Modi finds more dignified ways to convince people to vote for his party without denigrating the country.
‘‘I am anguished at his remarks that nothing has been done in 70 years. Does he really mean so? Life expectancy at independence was at 31, today it is 71 years; literacy was 8, today it is 76%; we relied on American food but today we are not only self-sufficient but exporting; from a slow growing economy, we are one of the fastest growing economies of the world,’’ he told media persons in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
Pointing out that the Modi led BJP government was unlikely to achieve its economic growth targets, he said it has faltered on multiple front — be it demonetisation, GST implementation, agriculture, politics, even Narmada, as well as the state of the economy.
Singh pointed out that today our per capita income on purchase power parity basis is around $5000. ‘‘In a country like Greece, it is $25,000.If we want to merely raise it to this level, we will have to grow at 35 per cent. BJP since 2014 in three years has done only 7.3 per cent, as against UPA’s 7 % in a ten year regime.
‘‘Even if we discount the disruptive effects of demonetisation and GST to be temporary, as is being suggested, India under the Modi government must grow at 10.7 per cent to reach its targeted 8.0 per cent growth. This needs private investment on the ground which has slowed down”.
Earlier, in an interaction with traders, he termed demonetisation as an ill-advised measure and a black day for India’s economy. ‘‘Nowhere in the world, any democracy has taken such coercive measures. It has only helped China as its exports into India have surged by Rs 45,000 crores to reach Rs 2.41 lakh crore.
On GST, Singh said that it was a well-designed step by his government which had been opposed by Modi. ‘‘The NDA changed the structure leading to gaping loopholes. They should have stuck to the 18 per cent ceiling and, more importantly, a dry run should have been carried out,” he added.
The former prime minister termed the bullet train as an exercise in vanity. Singh also came down heavily on the prime minister for his statement that Congress hated Gujaratis. ‘‘It is a gross distortion which needs to be rebutted. Modiji may strive to create an impression that there was a rift between Nehru and Sardar Patel, but actually they worked hand in hand and nothing can be gained by trying to ‘show the rift’.
The former prime minister said that Rahul Gandhi would prove to be dynamic and a competent leader. The future will show that.