It was a worst kerfuffle that finance minister Nirmala Sithararaman must have ever expected to happen at the end of a tough week. An opinion piece written by her husband Parkala Prabhakar advised the BJP to abandon incoherent construct like “ integral humanism” of its Jan Sangh founder Deendayal Upadhyay and opt instead for robust “ economic reforms” policy of Narasimha Rao- Manmohan Singh .
Nirmala bravely faced up to media questions on the critique articulated by her spouse on the Government’s handling of the economy. She reeled off with a straight face a gist of reforms steps under taken by the administration to tackle economy.
In the past one week the FM has been through it all– held to account for acts of omissions and commissions which were not of her making . From facing a street protest in Mumbai by Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative Bank depositors who had been scammed of their money by the promoters to complaints of chartered accountants and businessmen in Pune about glitch-ridden GST. Yet , what must have really hit her hard are the remarks on handling of economic crisis that came from within the family .
As expected , the op-ed piece was readily relished by adversaries of the Government ; a TV anchor even supported that the husband had the right to air his views on the economy , with a rider that it should not be used to beat the FM with. But then would Parkala’s views have carried weight if he had not been FM’s spouse? Clearly he was leveraging his status– once politically active , Parkala is not in the BJP and his claim to fame — he had once assisted TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu.
It was left to BJP president Amit Shah to cap the niggling controversy by asking in a TV interview “ do you want husband and wife to agree on everything”.
Of course it was not the first time that the FM got some support from the top BJP leader in the perception battle. In a one -on -one interaction soon after her elevation as FM, Amit Shah had praised Nirmala’s dedication and contribution as ordinary BJP karyakarta. Her work in North Block came for a special word of praise in RSS chief’s Vijayadashmi address– ” The Government has taken many initiatives to tide over the (economic) situation. This gives a definite indication of sensitivity towards people’s interests and its pro-active attitude.”
However, in the virtual world , Nirmala faces her battle all by her herself. Like during her Pune interaction with CAs last week when she interrupted a speaker for deriding GST and suggested that he instead come up with ideas to improve the law and not merely ask for junking law , social media erupted in protest and dubbed her ” arrogant “. This even after Nirmala fixed an appointment in her office for the GST nay-sayer !
The finance minister surely realises that all those trolling and opposing her represent important business interests. Or else why should any one view even her routine announcement of loan disbursement of INR 82,000 crore by PSBs in 9 days through the prism of PMC Bank scam alone — someone audaciously even suggesting that INR 9000 crore of depositors money should similarly be disbursed !
Yes, the FM with her upright ways — so stiff she may appear little short on niceties — has upset too many interest groups. That is why to oust Nirmala, some had over the weekend even thought of hiring a mythmaker to launch a oust FM campaign . Interestingly , such a campaign was punctured with a punctuation mark by FM herself !
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.