The article originally appeared on India Today on 27 December.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said he thanked Union Minister Arun Jaitley for reminding the nation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “never means what he says or says what he means.”

Rahul attached a video to his Twitter message. It containing clips of Modi’s controversial remark on former PM Manmohan Singh and former VP Hamid Ansari, and of a statement Jaitley made in the Rajya Sabha today.

The Congress alleged that on the assembly election campaign trail, Modi insinuated that his predecessor and the former vice-president conspired to derail the BJP in Gujarat, at a dinner party attended by former Pakistan diplomats. The Grand Old Party wanted an apology from the PM, and Manmohan said in a statement that he rejected “the innuendos and falsehoods.”

Office of RG ✔ @OfficeOfRG
Dear Mr Jaitlie – thank you for reminding India that our PM never means what he says or says what he means. #BJPLies
8:52 PM – Dec 27, 2017

“I sincerely hope that he will apologise to the nation for his ill thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies,” Manmohan said.

Today, Jaitley said Modi didn’t question or mean to question their commitment to the nation.

“We hold these leaders in high esteem,” Jaitley said.

In fact, the government and the Opposition reached a truce over the issue, thanks to some good old back room diplomacy.



Congress president Rahul Gandhi took a jibe at finance minister Arun Jaitley for his clarification on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks against former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Vice-president Hamid Ansari.

During an election rally in Gujarat, Modi had alleged Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders of colluding with Pakistan to defeat the BJP in Gujarat. Jatiley said in his clarification that was nowhere close to being apologetic, “PM in his speeches didn’t question, nor meant to question the commitment to this nation of either former PM Manmohan Singh or Former VP Hamid Ansari, any such perception is erroneous, we hold these leaders in high esteem, as well as their commitment to India.”

Tweeting a video of Modi’s election remarks and Arun Jaitley’s RS clarification side by side, Rahul addressed the Finance Minister sarcastically as “Dear Mr. Jaitlie” and in an equally sarcastic tone, thanked him “for reminding India that Narendra Modi never means what he says or says what he means.”

Office of RG @OfficeOfRG
Dear Mr Jaitlie – thank you for reminding India that our PM never means what he says or says what he means.

The remarks made by Modi created storm in Indian politics. Manmohan Singh reacted sharply on it and demanded an apology on what he perceived as Modi’s ill thought transgression, “I reject the innuendos and falsehoods as I did not discuss Gujarat elections with anyone else at the dinner hosted by Mani Shankar Aiyar as alleged by Modi. I sincerely hope that he will apologize to the Nation for his ill thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies.”

Congress launched a well mounted campaign to denounce it and made Modi’s apology a pre-condition to run the Parliament and with today’s compromise there seemed to be an end to the stalemate finally as Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of Opposition in RS and a Congress MP, thanked Jaitley for his clarification “on what had been issue of contention” and also distanced his party from any comments made against Modi during the Gujarat election campaign.



We are a nation where the urban poverty line is Rs. 47 a day while we think that the rural folks can survive at Rs. 32 a day and we arrived at this wisdom in 2014. When we had done so, we had graduated from the poverty lines of Rs. 27 in rural areas and Rs. 33 in urban areas. This is when you can’t arrange even a modest one time meal in Rs. 32.

This directly says the proportion of real poor, in qualitative terms, based on the average living conditions today, would be much higher that the projected figure of around 30% or less. When you go assessing this poverty mess keeping in mind ‘what should be and what is’, you see this is another equal India within India (or Bharat of the perennial India Vs Bharat debate).

Some 75% of Indians are without any health insurance cover. Majority cannot afford medicines for a sustained treatment regime, let alone the costly surgical processes. The attitude of doctors and support staff in the government run hospitals is even worse than scavengers. Finding good people there tougher than even finding God. People who can afford and can access, try to ignore the government run health facilities. And it across India including the metro cities.

Officially, India’s literacy rate is around 75%. But again, if we see qualitatively, it is the same old story of an equal sized Bharat within India. Our primary school system is languishing with deep holes and leakage in the ambitious Universal Elementary Education programme. Our higher education probably produces the maximum proportion of inept professionals and higher education graduates.

Our economy is consistently witnessing a falling gross savings to GDP ratio – from 34.6% in 2011-12 – to – 31.3% in 2015-16. One way to look at it would that people don’t have wealth in that proportion to save – something that is, naturally, very random and without substance. Or it means people are saving less.

But that doesn’t mean the government should use to a stick to discipline people – like the proponents of the EPF tax proposal including Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said – as a report the Economic Times put forward – “The government had justified the move by saying that it was meant to steer private sector employees towards a pensioned retirement by discouraging lump sum withdrawals, especially for, as experience suggests, conspicuous consumption.”

The finger is being pointed at it rightly – that who is the government to discipline us with our personal preference. Yes, it is good for us when we save more – but then, on a macro scale, it is good for the nation’s economic health as well. But, in the name of that, taxing a man’s life’s savings can never be justified especially when you give people dreams save taxes and build a corpus by investing in the Provident Fund scheme.

And from where this thought of ‘disciplining’ the salaried taxpayer came? When you have such ridiculous poverty lines, when you have millions poor to feed, when you have millions poor to heal, when you have millions poor to educate?

India and Bharat cannot become synonymous until we address these existential questions. Subsidy is now addressed as a ‘burden’ in the lingo being used by the economists but this ‘burden’ is lifeline for India’s millions poor who find it hard even to earn Rs. 47 or Rs. 32 a day.

The government is duty-bound to serve them first – with honesty – with integrity – with consistency. Taxing the middle class with another ‘tax burden’ would not serve any purpose here.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –


The verbal war intensified today – as expected – throwing up catchphrases like ‘master of half-truth and beautiful lies’ and ‘diversionary tactics’ – and as expected – it is expected to run a hot spell for some more days.

But here is a wild thought – wild because this ‘normal reaction’ has become so rare in Indian politics – that now no one talks about it – in fact, the party that entered the political scene with a ‘promised intent’ to change all such practices fights till the very last to protect its offices – with an attitude ‘we are write, we will prevail, come what may’ – certainly an ominous proposition for democratic values.

Anyway, like happens – as the universal norms of the politics of probity demand – can Arun Jaitley resign till he clears all doubts/allegations requesting a probe into all allegations that have been levelled against him in the DDCA scam?

Agreed that such charges/allegations have been around there for quite some time now, so why the demand now?

Because their verbal display has never been so intense!

We need to accept that AAP has successfully shifted if not totally diverted/deflected the glare of CBI raid against Arvind Kejriwal’s Principal Secretary to the intense debates on ‘Arun Jaitley and the DDCA scam’.

And there are controversial elements – SFIO report, DDCA report and Delhi High Court report – with highly scathing comments – and even if Arun Jaitley is not named there, the politics of probity demands that he step down in the name of ‘collective responsibility’ and help actively in tightening the noose around real culprits.

But then, thinking about the ‘politics of probity’ in these days of muddied waters is again a wild thought! Isn’t it?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –