Interview: Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents ‘ultimate hypocrisy’, says PTR

PTR told South First he deemed the debate on freebies — or 'revdi culture', as the prime minister puts it — 'inane and meaningless'.

ByShilpa Nair

Published Aug 18, 2022 | 6:25 PMUpdatedAug 19, 2022 | 6:32 PM

Palanivel Thiaga Rajan

Tamil Nadu’s Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan is unsparing in his critique of the Narendra Modi-led Union government’s style of functioning.

Famous for his witty tweets and scathing retorts, Thiaga Rajan, aka PTR, in an interview with South First, landed some unforgiving blows on the Union government and the Supreme Court over the freebies debate.

“It is quite depressing as a citizen. Here’s a court that has so much backlog of work that it hasn’t taken up cases on whether demonetisation was legitimate. Profound issues like electoral bonds and Article 370 haven’t been heard because the court doesn’t have time. In my opinion, this (freebies) debate is inane,” PTR told South First.

He fell back on the Constitution to buttress to his argument.

“Because nowhere in the Constitution has the Supreme Court been appointed as the guardian of the people’s money or all that is right and proper… Those elected — either Parliament or state legislatures — are supposed to make decisions on how public money is spent. I don’t understand where the Supreme Court comes into this,” he argued.

Earlier this week, Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK petitioned the Supreme Court to make it a respondent in the freebies case. Andhra Pradesh’s ruling party YSR Congress followed suit.

‘Ultimate hypocrisy’: PTR on Union government

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has deemed freebies as “revdi culture” — after the small sesame-seed-and-jaggery candy popular in North India — and a host of Union ministers have been lecturing states on fiscal management while announcing welfare schemes, PTR deemed the debate a “farce” and the prime minister “hypocritical”.

“It is beyond hypocritical for this prime minister — but that’s the norm for him — to make these kinds of statements considering he flew down from Delhi to Chennai to kickstart the ₹25,000-per-scooter scheme of the AIADMK government, which we have stopped now,” PTR said.

“The characteristic of this prime minister is that if he does something, it must be the greatest thing in the world, and we must all bow down in humility to it. And if anyone else does it, then it must be wrong because they are doing it. It is the ultimate hypocrisy,” he added.

“It is not about the fact or the action or the law or the concept, but about that one human being. Everything he does is right and everything anyone else does is wrong. So, it is not even a debate worth having. It is basically an exercise in futility,” PTR told South First.

Challenge to EAM Jaishankar

Reiterating that the Union government was lecturing states on fiscal management when it had failed terribly in managing the finances of the country, PTR threw an open challenge to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

Jaishankar invited the wrath of southern parties when a debate on the Sri Lankan crisis during the Parliament session in July was turned into a presentation on the fiscal health of states.

“I would say that, by any stretch of imagination, I am a far better money manager than Jaishankar. I would like to challenge him on it. I don’t know what he has studied, but I am sure I know better finance — or have forgotten more finance than he knows,” PTR said, adding that Jaishankar had no standing on the subject.

“Either there must be some Constitutional position, in which case explain the Constitution to us and we will follow; or there must be a track record that you, somehow, have a superior experience or execution… There should not be hypocrisy,” PTR pointed out, taking on the Union government over social welfare schemes.

This is an excerpt from one part of PTR’s interview with South First. Catch the full video interview here: