Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his predecessor P. Chidambaram locked horns over the question of retrospective tax, which both agreed was the single most important factor that spoiled the investment climate in the country.
They were participating in a discussion at the launch of the book, “2014 The Election That Changed India,” written by journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. Karan Thapar moderated the discussion.
“If I had 282 MPs, I would have passed a simple legislation that is required to undo it,” said Mr. Chidambaram, wondering why the BJP-led government was not doing it. Mr. Jaitley said the government did not want to take the legislative route to negate the stand of the government of India. Explaining the government approach to reforms, the Finance Minister said, he had a road map ready for the next two years. “We have to go at a pace that the political system can take.”
“You have won 282 Lok Sabha seats. This was the time to take hard decisions,” Mr. Chidambaram said. When Mr. Thapar pointed out that people feel let down that the Modi government has not been moving fast enough on reforms, Mr. Jaitley shot back. “Nobody feels let down as some of the recent election results show. It is very easy to comment. But some second generation reforms need larger consensus.”
Debating the point that the 2014 election marked the disruption of the Nehruvian consensus, Mr. Jaitley said some elements such as democracy and a robust political opposition are relevant today as they were during the first Prime Minister’s time. “But other components, such as those related to the economy and security of the country are not relevant today, as we face new situations.”