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Roiled Rupee: Editorial on how criticism by BJP in 2013 is coming back to haunt them

The Narendra Modi government has been fumbling for answers to explain the slump in the exchange value of the rupee this year after it slid past 82 against the US dollar

The Editorial Board Published 19.10.22, 02:52 AM
The Union finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, came up with a disingenuous response when she claimed that the rupee had not weakened; it was the dollar that had hardened against all currencies.

The Union finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, came up with a disingenuous response when she claimed that the rupee had not weakened; it was the dollar that had hardened against all currencies. File picture

Reckless political rhetoric based on a poor understanding of the way markets work has a bad way of backfiring on those who first hurled the thunderbolts. The Narendra Modi government has been fumbling for answers to explain the slump in the exchange value of the rupee this year after it slid past 82 against the US dollar. The answer is pretty obvious: a number of factors have coalesced to send the global economy and the markets into a tailspin. Surging inflation, rising interest rates worldwide and the imminent risk that the global economy could tumble into recession next year have sent investors scurrying to safe haven assets in the United States of America. Inevitably, the dollar has hardened against all currencies, including the rupee. But logical explanations have been swept away as a torrent of memes and old videos have surfaced in social media playing out the fulminations of Mr Modi and his cohorts against the Manmohan Singh government when the rupee was hammered in 2013. Those ill-advised, half-baked comments from the past have started to haunt the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Union finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, came up with a disingenuous response when she claimed that the rupee had not weakened; it was the dollar that had hardened against all currencies. Supporters of Mr Modi’s government sprang to her defence with a convoluted quibble over how other currencies — notably the Japanese yen and the pound sterling — have fared worse than the rupee. For instance, the dollar has appreciated 22 per cent against the yen since the start of this year. In contrast, the rupee has fallen by around 6.8 per cent against the dollar. However, this argument loses sight of the fact that the Reserve Bank of India dipped into its foreign exchange reserves and sold a net $43.2 billion worth of dollars since the start of 2022 to defend the rupee. The monetary policymakers, who are already battling the problem of runaway inflation which crested at 7.41 per cent in September, will now have to find ways to tackle the risk of imported inflation. In one sense, the entire debate over the rupee’s depreciation turns puerile when a false sense of national pride is attached to the currency’s value. The potshots against Mr Modi’s regime now hark back to the outrageous comments that the BJP leaders made almost a decade ago.

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