New Delhi: A 'White Paper' versus 'Black Paper' battle erupted on Thursday as the Centre and the Congress unveiled documents and crossed swords over the handling of the Indian economy during the nearly 10 years of the BJP-led NDA rule and the previous 10-year tenure of the Congress-led UPA government.
As the rival multi-party alliances sought to put the spotlight on economic issues just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a jibe at the Congress for coming out with a "Black Paper" on the NDA government, calling it a "kaala teeka"(black dot) that will ward off the evil eye on the achievements of his government.
While the NDA government's White Paper said the Indian economy was on "road to nowhere" in 2014 because of the multiple wrong turns taken during the UPA rule, the Congress' Black Paper highlighted what it called the "failures" of the Modi government and alleged that the last 10 years have been a period of "injustice".
The White Paper tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the alleged "economic mismanagement" by the previous UPA government and achievements of the 10 years of NDA rule.
The BJP is likely to launch a nationwide campaign around the White Paper as it believes that the issue will resonate with the masses in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls and reinforce its message about Prime Minister Modi's able leadership and the ineptness of the Congress and its allies.
The Centre's 54-page document said the Modi government after assuming power in 2014 took "tough decisions" to overcome the "hydra-headed challenges" of runaway fiscal deficit, decision stasis, banking crisis, corruption and scams.
"In sum, the progress achieved in the ten years of our government has overcome the malaise and paralysis of the previous ten years of the UPA government. In 2024, confidence and purpose have replaced the diffidence and drift of 2014," it said.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge released a 54-page 'charge sheet' titled '10 saal anyay kaal' attacking the Centre just ahead of the government's tabling in Parliament of the 'White Paper' on the "mismanagement" of the economy prior to 2014 with an aim to draw lessons.
In the Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Modi said Kharge being an elder has put this 'kaala teeka' for the good work being done by our government in the country's progress.
"Whenever a good thing happens, we apply the 'kaala teeka' (to ward off the evil eye), and I thank Kharge ji for doing this honour today," he added.
"When the country is touching new heights in the last ten years, we take it as 'kaala teeka' to help ward off the evil eye".
The White Paper brought out by the Centre with just two days left for the end of the last session of the current Lok Sabha tore into the Congress-led UPA rule, saying it had turned the Indian economy into a non-performing one through indiscriminate revenue expenditure, off budget borrowings and pile of bad debts at banks.
The reforms undertaken by the Modi government resulted in the transition of India from the league of 'Fragile Five' to the league of 'Top Five' global economies in just about a decade and the economy has been transformed into a far more resilient avatar amidst a challenging global environment, it said.
Indian economy was on a "road to nowhere" in 2014 because of the multiple wrong turns taken during the 10 years of UPA rule, leaving the onus on the Modi government to deal with the challenges and restore dynamism and optimism in the economy, the document said.
"When our government assumed office, the economy was on a road to nowhere, exhibiting tell-tale signs of deep distress emanating from multiple 'wrong turns' in economic policy," said the White Paper which is likely to be discussed in the Lok Sabha on Friday.
Sitharaman, while presenting the 2024-25 interim budget last week, had said that the economy has been put firmly on a high sustainable growth path with all-round development in the past 10 years of the Modi government.
"It is now appropriate to look at where we were then till 2014 and where we are now, only for the purpose of drawing lessons from the mismanagement of those years," she had said.
Listing out 15 scams including those relating to coal block allocation, 2G spectrum auction, CWG and Saradha Chit Fund during the UPA regime, the White Paper said these corruption cases had "shaken confidence of the people" in the economy.
"Ultimately, what the UPA government bequeathed in 2014 was an unenviable legacy of a structurally weaker economy and a pervasive atmosphere of despondency." The UPA government failed miserably to facilitate economic activities and instead it created hurdles that held back economy, the paper said, adding that in 2014 the NDA government inherited a "deeply damaged" economy.
"Looking back at the last ten years, we can say with humility and satisfaction that we have successfully overcome the challenges left behind by the previous government." The Congress' 'Black Paper' on the other hand highlighted what it called social, economic and political "injustices" committed during the Modi government's tenure.
"The Modi government's 10 years in power have devastated the country's economy, aggravated unemployment, destroyed the country's agricultural sector, abetted crimes against women and committed grave injustices against minorities in the country," the party alleged in its document.
"The Modi government is silent on price rise... the prices of petrol, diesel and daily essentials has reached record levels." Terming the 2016 move of demonetisation as a "blunder", the party said economic effects of the "disastrous demonetisation" seven years ago continue to haunt the country even now.
The Black Paper also raised issues such as "unemployment, price rise, farmers' distress, failure to carry out a caste census and injustice to women".
"Whenever PM (Narendra) Modi presents his views in Parliament, he hides his failures. At the same time, when we speak about the failures of the government, it is not given importance.
"Therefore, we thought of bringing out a black paper and tell the public about the failures of the government," Kharge, who was flanked by party leaders Pawan Khera and Syed Naseer Hussain, told a press conference at his Delhi residence.