NEW DELHI: Former finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg on Saturday said differences with finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the government’s reluctance to push through reforms in the initial months of returning to office prompted him to seek voluntary retirement.
In a blog, he said Sitharaman had sought his transfer in June 2019, within a month of taking over as FM.
“The government did talk about making India a $5-trillion economy by 2024-25 after the elections and winning a great majority. But the reform agenda and the investment plan for attaining the goal of $10-trillion economy articulated in the interim budget 2019-20, however, got sidetracked and was virtually forgotten. The government was turning populist as well. As part of a 100-day programme, a number of announcements were made aimed to please specific constituencies. Reform agenda was acquiring tinge of being more short-term and tinkering type,” he wrote, a year after retiring.
The Rajasthan cadre officer, who by his own acknowledgment had “several run-ins” with seniors and ministers during his 36-year stint in IAS, also said working with Sitharaman was difficult and accused her of coming with pre-conceived notions about him.
“It became quite apparent very early that working with her was going to be quite difficult and it might not be conducive to undertaking necessary reforms for the attainment of the objective of building a $10-trillion economy,” Garg said while listing RBI’s economic capital framework, a package for NBFCs and partial credit guarantee scheme as areas where there were differences.
Government sources said during the last six years, Sitharaman had worked with over a dozen secretaries across three ministries but Garg was the sole person to have spoken of differences. “This makes it clear as to who had the problem,” said a source. While his differences with ex-RBI governor Urjit Patel over the capital framework led the government to take the unprecedented step of issuing a directive, there were occasions when the Centre frowned upon Garg publicly joining issue with RBI.
“Very soon, not only had our personal relationship soured, but the official working relationship also became quite unproductive,” Garg wrote.
He praised ex-FM Arun Jaitley, saying he focused on broader policy issues and left the running of the departments and implementation of policies to secretaries.
“He genuinely encouraged contribution on major policy issues to come from secretaries. He made the secretaries present policy proposals to the PMO as well as to the media and public. He was a very magnanimous and broad-minded person,” Garg wrote.
While Garg had planned to seek VRS from October 31, he filed it on July 24 within hours of being shifted to the power ministry. Garg said he was unwilling to work in any other ministry, although he had been given the option to move to any other department or regulatory body by the PMO.