New Delhi: Nirmala Sitharaman’s office hit back at Congress after it mocked the Narendra Modi-led Centre over the Finance Minister’s absence from key pre-budget meet chaired by PM Narendra Modi.  Notably, Congress party and its senior leader Shashi Tharoor had wondered where Sitharaman was during the meeting. Using the hashtag #FindingNirmala, the Congress party took potshots at the government and said,”Here’s a suggestion, next budget meeting, consider inviting the Finance Minister.” Also Read - Ahead of Union Budget 2020, PM Modi Meets Top Economists, Discusses Steps to Revive Economy

“What’s going on here? Finance minister indisposed?” the Thiruvananthapuram MP had asked after the Finance Minister’s absence from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pre-Budget meeting started a debate on micro-blogging site Twitter. Also Read - Budget Session From Jan 31, Union Budget to be Presented on Feb 1: Report

Responding to Tharoor’s tweet, Sitharaman’s office said, “Sir, the minister has already met economists on 20th December 2019, as a part of the pre-budget consultations.”  It also shared an official press release and a photo of the Finance Minister at the meeting. Also Read - Union Budget 2020: Income Tax Relief, Incentives For Home Buyers - Here's What to Expect From Modi 2.0 Govt

The Finance Minister’s office further asserted that Sitharaman 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. If reports are to be believed, PM was aware of Sitharaman’s absence at the other meeting.

“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 the Finance Minister told NDTV.

About the Pre-Budget Meeting And Its Attendees 

Ahead of the Union budget 2020-2021, Prime Minister Modi, yesterday, called on India’s top economists at NITI Aayog in an annual exercise by the government. At the meeting the current state of economy and measures to revive growth and curb the economic slowdown was discussed.

Home Minister Amit Shah, commerce minister Piyush Goyal, Rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Road Transport and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar CEO Amitabh Kant and other senior officials of the think tank was present at the meeting but the Finance Minister did not attend it.