New Delhi: BJP on Friday alleged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is "directly and openly" trying to put all the blame for the economic slowdown on former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and charged that he was equally responsible for the state of affairs.

"The Prime Minister was a full partner and complicit in all that P Chidambaram (FM in UPA-I government) and Pranab Mukherjee did. And therefore, it is not open to the Prime Minister today to distance himself from those decision and put blame on them," BJP leader and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha told a press conference on Friday.

In an interview to a newspaper, Singh, who now holds the Finance portfolio after Mukherjee quit to contest the presidential election, has said he will work towards making India a more business-friendly place, cut-down infructous procedures and cut down fiscal deficit.

"What is most laughable about the interview is that the Prime Minister is distancing himself from Pranab Mukherjee. He says there will be clarity in all tax matters. Who brought about the confusion in tax matters? A Finance Minister meets his Prime Minister four to five times during the budget preparation. The PM goes through every word of the FM's budget speech," Sinha said.

Alleging that Singh himself is to be blamed for the bottlenecks in policy implementation, the former Finance Minister said the Prime Minister is "directly and openly blaming Pranab Mukherjee though he was his senior most colleague".

"It is a statement of defeat, of frustration, of a dark future," Sinha said about Singh's words on the economic woes facing the country, adding "he is an under-rated politician and an over-rated economist."

BJP said Pranab Mukherjee could not have gone ahead on contentious issues like GAAR and retrospective taxation (like in the case of Vodafone) without consulting Singh and if he did what was the PM doing all along.

Sinha, who was full of sarcasm for Manmohan Singh, said he wished to congratulate the Prime Minister for "opening his mouth" as the country was looking forward to his views since he took over the Finance portfolio.

BJP also made light of the new expectations in some sections that with Singh at the helm of the Finance Ministry the economy will improve.

"Singh is likely to keep this portfolio till September. Though India's growth story is not yet over, three months is too short a time for anybody to turn around the economy," Sinha said.

The main opposition was also not impressed with Singh attributing some of the present economic problems on the erstwhile NDA government.

"The Prime Minister has said there were a lot of things the previous government did which we had to undo. No Prime Minister can look for consensus with the opposition if he starts with this premise.... They are not seeing the problem, how will they solve them? The Prime Minister is living in denial even today," Sinha said.

Quoting the PM, BJP sought to know if legislation is not the bottleneck to economic growth, then what is preventing the government from taking executive action. "Singh is talking as if he is the chief consultant to the government of India," Sinha said, adding it was not open to the PM to tell the world how this or that should be done.

BJP also maintained the PM cannot maintain a high level of integrity and allow a sea of corruption to prevail around him.

"The PM has also admitted that there is lack of political consensus in government. He says there is an honest difference of opinion. So, if there is a consensus, we will work else we will wait," Sinha said.

He claimed the present economic scenario proves the charges BJP has been levelling against the government.

"All our problems or most of them are domestic and not imported from abroad. You cannot blame small countries like Greece and Portugal. The petrol prices did not increase suddenly in 2011-12. PM has admitted there is a policy paralysis in UPA-II," Sinha said.

BJP sought to know why the government had not made progress on issues of reforms in mutual fund and the insurance sector, coal block allocation, infrastructure projects, inter-linking of rivers, building small airports and improving rural infrastructure.

The opposition party alleged the Prime Minister is engaging in bipartisanship by laying the blame for the present economic problems on the NDA government. Sinha said the NDA government had taken steps to deal with the chronic balance of payments crisis, controlled inflation through structural changes, kept interest rates in check and made progress in infrastructure development.

BJP pledged all support to every sensible step the government takes to improve the economy and cited the example of Pensions Bill in which it had bailed out the government in the Parliament.

"This government acts first and thinks later. Hence, it has to take back its decisions. It should consult its allies," Sinha, who had earned the sobriquet of "Rollback Sinha" when he was FM, said.

(Agencies)

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