As India moves towards becoming the fifth largest economy next year, ahead of the UK (which it should at current rates of growth of the two countries) , the government will focus on sharing the dividend of economic growth with rural sections of the society, Union minister Arun Jaitley wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.

The post, titled ‘The Congress Gave Slogans to Rural India – Prime Minister Modi Gave Resources,’ followed the release of a World Bank report that said India had become the world’s sixth largest economy, pushing France to the seventh position.

“This is in consonance with the rest of the narrative. Being the fastest growing economy for the last four years, we can look at the next decade as one of economic expansion,” wrote Jaitley.

The Indian economy is estimated to grow 7-7.5% in the current fiscal year, higher than the 6.7% growth clocked in 2017-18.

The focus of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on the rural economy sets it apart from the Congress regimes of the past, Jaitley wrote. “We will not follow the model of 1970s & 1980s of the Congress Party. That model essentially involved populist slogans rather than sound policy and actual expenditure for the welfare of the poor.” To buttress his argument, Jaitley cited budget allocations for spending in rural areas to show that the NDA government’s focus is on improving rural livelihoods and development of infrastructure.

He also cited initiatives such as Jan Dhan bank accounts to promote financial inclusion, loans for small businesses and Ayushman Bharat, directed at weaker sections of the society; the less privileged have the first right to resources and the fruits of higher economic growth, Jaitley wrote.

Criticising Jaitley’s post, Congress’ chief spokesperson RS Surjewala said: “He should also write a Facebook post on the economic woes that Modinomics has heaped upon India.” He cited rising inflation and fuel prices and declining factory output and exports, and the Goods and Services Tax that he said was getting “more complicated by the day.”

Former chief statistician of India Pronab Sen defended the GST. “The government has been rightly taking credit for the GST, though one can argue that it is largely an urban India-facing reform. As far as the rural India is concerned, there is a lot of discourse around distress that is evident, so the central government has to think out of box to at least dispel the talk of farm distress,” Sen said.

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