The Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government is incapable of bringing the economy out of the current downturn, Congress leader and former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram said on Thursday.

“The economy can be brought out of the slowdown, but this government is incapable of doing that. I believe that the Congress and some other parties are better equipped to pull the economy out of the slowdown and push economic growth, but we have to wait for better times," Chidambaram said at a press conference in the national capital.

“The United Progressive Alliance government lifted 140 million people out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has, since 2016, pushed millions of people below the poverty line," said the Congress leader.

This was Chidambaram’s first press conference since he walked out of the Tihar Jail late on Wednesday after the Supreme Court granted him bail in the INX Media money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate. Chidambaram was in custody for 105 days.

The Congress leader’s comments come in the backdrop of the Indian economy growing at 4.5% in the September quarter, the slowest pace in 25 quarters.

Chidambaram said the NDA government does not understand if the slowdown is structural or cyclical in nature. The government has banished economists and experts such as former RBI governors Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel, and former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian who understood this crucial difference, he rued.

“The government is calling the present slowdown ‘cyclical’. Thank god they have not called it ‘seasonal’. It is ‘structural’ and the government has no solution or reform that would address the structural problems," he said.

The proposed stake sale of Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL) is a scandal, involves accounting maneuvering, and will not benefit the economy or the company, the Congress leader said. Last month, the Union cabinet approved the sale of the government’s 53.29% stake in BPCL to a strategic buyer, ceding management control.

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