Indian Finance Minister Left Out of PM Modi's Budget Consultations

© AFP 2022 / SAJJAD HUSSAINIn this photograph taken on April 9, 2019, Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks with an AFP reporter at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi
In this photograph taken on April 9, 2019, Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks with an AFP reporter at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi - Sputnik International
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New Delhi (Sputnik): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that the country will become a $5 trillion economy by 2025. The size of the economy was $2 trillion when Modi took over in 2014 and has reportedly increased to $3 trillion. India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has, however, touched a six-year low at 4.5 percent.

Less than a month into the Indian budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's absence from key industry consultations held by Prime Minister Modi has led to eyebrows being raised by many, including from the main opposition party Congress.

Like some of the previous meetings, Sitharaman could not be spotted in the latest meeting that the prime minister held with a section of economists on Thursday, despite her other cabinet colleagues being present on the occasion.

Modi has held a series of consultation meetings on the budget over the last 10 days, as well as on the plan to expand the size of the Indian economy to $5 trillion by 2025. Interestingly, the finance minister was not part of any of them.

According to sources, eight consultation meetings have already been conducted by the prime minister. On Thursday, Modi met a group of 39 economists in the presence of Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog – the Indian government’s top think tank. 

​In a photograph of Modi’s meeting with economists in New Delhi on Thursday, tweeted by Indian news agency ANI, several cabinet ministers handling key portfolios could be seen, but Finance Minister Sitharaman wasn’t there. The other cabinet ministers present on the occasion included Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

Modi is seen flanked by Home Minister Amit Shah and Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog Rajeev Kumar. Before Thursday’s meeting, Modi met with India’s top industry captains on 6 January.

Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor raised the issue of the absence of the finance minister during key consultations, with responses pouring in. 

Tharoor did get a reply to his social media broadside against the Indian finance minister. The minister’s office tweeted that Sitharaman already had a meeting with economists on 20 December.

​Finance Minister Sitharaman’s Twitter account also wrote about the minister’s interaction with the office bearers and grass-roots level functionaries of the governing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), held almost at the same time as Modi’s meeting with economists.

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