Congress leader P Chidambaram during budget session of Parliament, in New Delhi, on Feb. 5, 2018. (Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI)

Every Constitutional Value Is Under Attack, Says Congress’ Chidambaram

In the introduction to his new book, Undaunted–Saving the Idea of India, Congress party leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram wrote that currently every value of the Constitution is under attack—freedom, equality, liberalism, secularism, privacy, scientific temper, etc...

“There is a clear and present danger that the Constitution of India will be replaced by a document that will be inspired by an ideology called Hindutva,” he said.

While ominous, the statement is also yet unfounded. At the launch of the book in Mumbai, Chidambaram was asked if he was resorting to fearmongering.

Commenting for the first time on the terrorist attack on CRPF paramilitary forces in Pulwama, Kashmir and the subsequent Indian airstrikes on Balakot, Pakistan, Chidambaram said while he believed the government, the government had been speaking in too many voices. He was referring to the contradictory claims made by various officials regarding the death toll due to the Balakot strikes.

In January, the Congress announced that if voted to power it would introduce a minimum income guarantee scheme for the poor but left the details to be announced later. In the Union Budget, the NDA government announced PM Kisan—a scheme to pay Rs 6,000 per annum to small and marginal farmers. Payment of the first installment of Rs 2,000 has already begun. Both efforts have been described as palliatives by economists at a time India’s farm sector is facing real distress.

More recently Congress President Rahul Gandhi also promised a nation-wide farm loan waiver if voted back to power. Would Chidambaram describe this competitive populism as fiscally prudent?

The other important challenge facing the Indian economy is that of jobs. More recently the government was accused of concealing unemployment data as well as undermining the the National Statistics Commission which resulted in the resignation of its two members. Chidambaram underscored the absence of data but said his party would work with small and medium enterprises, export industries and the services sector to boost employment opportunities.