Jaitley signal to stay as FM

Jaitley discusses banking, divestment, expenditure, revenue trends in meeting with top officials in his ministry

  • Published 25.05.19, 4:11 AM
  • Updated 25.05.19, 4:11 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Arun Jaitley The Telegraph file picture

Arun Jaitley on Friday tried to quell speculation that he might not return as finance minister in the next Narendra Modi-led government — a topic of fevered debate in the labyrinthine corridors of power and outside — by calling a meeting of the top officials in his ministry at his residence to review the latest economic situation and the measures that the new regime would need to take to jump-start a faltering economy that has seen growth dip to 6.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2018-19.

The meeting was held just a week before the Central Statistics Office is due to come out with its provisional estimate for growth in 2018-19 and the growth rate in the fourth quarter amid talk that the quarterly growth may slide to 6.4 per cent.

The meeting — which was described as routine by officials — could be seen as a subtle signal to the leaders in the party that he is quite capable to shoulder the onerous responsibility of the ministry despite his recurrent bouts of ill-health that forced him to return to All India Institute of Medical Science here to undergo a battery of tests and seek treatment for an undisclosed illness.

Jaitley (66) was released from hospital on Thursday just as the results of the general election started to pour in. He couldn’t attend the celebratory function at the party headquarters last evening but he was eager to show that he was ready to get to grips with the issues that need to be addressed in the forthcoming budget which will be presented in early July.

Last year, Jaitley had semaphored similar signals when Piyush Goyal had been named as stand-in finance minister after being forced to a kidney transplant last May.

At that time, he had called officials to his residence after returning from hospital — and being virtually quarantined by doctors to speed up his recovery and protect him from infection — to vet official files.

He had also announced that former chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian had sought his permission to be relieved of his duties for personal reasons.

The government was quick to restore the finance ministry bailiwick to Jaitley. But there remains a cloud of uncertainty over whether the new Modi government will do so again.

During the hour long meeting on Friday, sources said, Jaitley discussed banking, divestment, expenditure, revenue trends, the direct tax code, the liquidity position of NBFCs and GST.

Finance secretary S.C. Garg, revenue secretary Ajay Pandey, expenditure secretary G.C. Murmu, financial services secretary Rajiv Kumar and DIPAM secretary Atanu Chakraborty were present in the meeting. CBDT chairman P.C. Mody and CBIC chairman P.K. Das also attended.