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Curious signals in pre-Budget meet

NEW DELHI:  With the economy in a tailspin and the Budget barely a month away, PM Narendra Modi on Thursday sat down with top economists and business leaders to pick their brains on how to revive growth, which is projected to drag at an 11-year low pace in FY20. “We must all work together and start to think like a nation,” an official release quoted the Prime Minister as saying at the meeting, which was attended by private equity players, venture capitalists, business leaders, key officials and members of the Niti Aayog, apart from economists.

Home Minister Amit Shah, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal were also present in the meeting. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was conspicuous by her absence in the Thursday meeting held at the Niti Aayog. Intriguingly, she was also not part of a series of other pre-Budget meetings the PM has held with business leaders in the past few days. On Thursday, Sitharaman was busy meeting BJP workers to hear their Budget suggestions.

Her absence at the meeting chaired by the PM and the presence of Piyush Goyal, who has previously acted as finance minster during late Arun Jaitley’s indisposition, triggered a flurry of tweets. “Where is the finance minister or has the duo (PM and Home Minister) forgotten they have one?” asked Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. Sitharaman’s office was quick to join in, tweeting, “Sir, the minister has already met industrialists and economists during the pre-Budget consultations.”