New Delhi, June 30: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learning the hard way that neither a spent arrow nor a spoken word can be taken back – not even by the Great Communicator of Campaign 2014.
A slingshot shooting spree erupted on the political arena and outside after the rupee touched its all-time low on Thursday, with some digging out the blistering barbs that Modi had lobbed at the Manmohan Singh Government in the run-up to 2014 when the currency had fallen.
Two statements attributed to Modi drew particular attention.
One, Modi had said on June 12, 2012: “The country wants to know, Prime Minister, what is the reason that the Indian rupee alone has been falling and falling against the dollar? I have clearly said this is not just for economic reasons, but your corrupt politics that has started from Delhi that has a big role in this. I am making the allegation very seriously.”
The other statement by Modi was made in July 2013, when he wondered whether the falling rupee was approaching the age of Manmohan, who was 80 then.
The average exchange rate for the rupee was 54.41 a dollar in 2012-13 and 60.50 a dollar in 2013-14 although it had closed at a lifetime low of 68.82 on August 28, 2013.
On Thursday, the rupee slipped past 69 during intra-day trading for the first time ever, before RBI intervention helped it close at 68.79. On Friday, the rupee closed higher at 68.46.
Fears of a trade war between the US and China, a strong dollar and rising crude oil prices are being cited as the triggers for the fall of the Indian currency.
The Modi Government has had little to do with the global reasons for the currency upheaval although concerns do exist about fiscal slippage. But Modi’s campaign talking points have been so dramatic, if not reckless, that they have changed the complexion of the national discourse, in which facts and nuances carry little weight now.
Having been at the receiving end 5 years ago, the Congress sunk its teeth into the chance. “What should we presume now? We can’t stoop so low as to use your language, but can we ask whether the rupee has touched 70 (to the dollar) for the first time in the history because of corruption?” Congress spokesperson RPN Singh asked.
Chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had already posted on Facebook: “Dear Modiji, You mocked Dr Manmohan Singh comparing his age to the value of depreciating currency, which never really fructified. Now it is at a historic low of 68.61 to the dollar, surpassing your age.”
Other tweeters made merry. “Currency notes with the RBI will be dipped in protein-shake and sent to a gym,” one said while others compared the fall to that of the German football team. Some wanted to know why the Government spent so much on Modi’s foreign travel.
None of this will be music to the ears of Modi, who has maintained his silence, something that has come to be seen as his trademark response to hot-button issues.
A collateral casualty is author Chetan Bhagat, who had tweeted in 2013: “The rupee is collapsing and neither the economist PM nor the first family has anything to say about it.”
On Friday, when some tweeters sought to engage with him on the rupee and other issues, Bhagat reposted a note and tweeted: “Just a reminder. For those asking me for explanations – my No more explanations policy. Sorry.” (Courtesy: TT)