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Published On: Fri, Jan 10th, 2020

“Where is the Finance Minister? Congress mocks as FM Nirmala Sitharaman absent from pre-budget meet

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73173271NEW DELHI : Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The minister was also missing from a meeting NEW DELHI :The Congress on Thursday took a jibe at Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s absence from the Prime Minister-led industry meeting on budget suggestions. PM Narendra Modi had a two-hour meeting with 40 industry heads, experts, bankers, entrepreneurs and representative of private equity firms, to gather their views on steps to revive the economy.
According to sources, the Prime Minister received suggestions on boosting consumption and generating demand in the economy Home Minister Amit Shah, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Rural Development Minister Narendra Tomar and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari were present. The five Finance Ministry Secretaries also attended the meeting.
Mocking photos from the event that constituted almost entirely of men, Congress took to Twitter and said, “How many men does it take to do a woman’s job?” What accompanied was the hashtag ‘Finding Nirmala’, a play on the children’s movie Finding Nemo.

According to sources, the Finance Minister was busy with some party-assigned work and could not attend the meeting. Sitharaman’s was also noticed by Twitterati. They started chirping about the budget being around the corner and the Finance Minister missing the Prime Minister’s meeting called, presumably, to garner budget suggestions. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also asked, “Where is the Finance Minister? Or has the Duo forgotten they have one?”

This is not the first time the Congress has attacked Sitharaman. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury landed in hot water when he suggested that the finance minister has become weak and called her ‘Nirbala’ Sitharaman. Controversy was also created when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that PM Modi got a “woman” to defend him in Parliament.
Speaking at a rally in Jaipur in January 2019, Rahul Gandhi said, “Janta ki adaalat se 56-inch ki chaati wala chowkidaar bhaag gaya. Aur ek mahila se kehta hai Sitharaman ji aap meri raksha kijiye, main apni raksha nahi kar paunga, aap meri raksha kijiye. (The 56-inch-chest chowkidaar ran away from the Lok Sabha. And he asked a woman, ‘Sitharaman ji please defend me, I would not be able to defend myself’.)”
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi held consultations with economists today ahead of the Budget on February 1, a notable absentee was Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The minister was also missing from a meeting on Monday between the Prime Minister and top industrialists.
Ms Sitharaman did attend a pre-budget consultation, but at the BJP headquarters, with party leaders and office-bearers. Pre-budget meetings minus the Finance Minister set up a new trending debate on social media. “Here’s a suggestion, next budget meeting, consider inviting the Finance Minister,” the Congress sneered, using the hashtag #FindingNirmala.
“Sir, the minister has already met economists on 20th December 2019, as a part of the pre-budget consultations,” tweeted the Finance Minister’s office, along with an official press release and a photo of Ms Sitharaman at the meeting.
Ms Sitharaman’s office also tweeted the dates of nine meetings she had held with various sectors in December. “Sir, the minister has already met industrialists, experts, and economists during the pre-budget consultations. Also, she has been meeting and interacting with representatives and stakeholders from various industries for many months now,” said the tweet.
The Finance Minister’s office said she could not cancel the scheduled meeting at the BJP office and had informed the Prime Minister’s office of her absence at the consultation with economists. Sources said only after advice from the Prime Minister, she attended one meeting and skipped the other.
“Nirmala ji was not on vacation. She was busy attending another meeting. The parallel meet was pre scheduled at the BJP Headquarters. Suggesting that she was excluded from this meeting is political notoriety,” a source close to Ms Sitharaman said. PM Modi’s meetings are seen to signal that he is taking charge of the economy after the projected growth slipped to just 5% this year.

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Rural Development Minister Narendra Tomar were present at today’s meeting.

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