Union Budget designed for five poll-bound states, point out Congress chief ministers  

The Budget not only window dressed allocations but public money had been diverted to poll-bound states to serve political interests of the BJP, complained Congress chief ministers in their reaction

Union Budget designed for five poll-bound states, point out Congress chief ministers  

Prakash Bhandari and Bipin Bhardwaj

Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel voiced their disappointment with the Union Budget for 2021-22 and described it as reflective of the central government’s total apathy towards the common man, the middle class and the farmers.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot described the Union budget designed for just five states where Assembly elections are due this year. The needs and claims of all other states have been ignored to please and appease the electorate of these five states, he pointed out.

“The Union Government wanted to cover up basic issues," tweeted Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel. Money had failed to reach the pockets of the people and the Union Finance Minister had failed to take any initiative to address the issue, he added.

The Punjab chief minister, an ex-armyman, said the vital sector of Defence had not been adequately addressed despite the growing border threat from China and Pakistan, while Health allocation had actually come down amid the Covid crisis.

Trashing the union government's  claim that the Health sector allotment had been increased by 35 per cent, Captain Amarinder Singh said the fact was that numbers had been effectively fudged to project a hike by including the Rs 35,000 crore Covid vaccine allotment and the amount set aside for Sanitation and Cleanliness under the Health head. Actually, the budget for Health was down by 10 per cent, he added.

He also slammed the Centre for the step-motherly treatment meted out to Punjab and other northern states in the budget, which was designed to cater to the poll-bound states with massive infrastructure development allocation for them.

“The budget also reflects the central government’s persistent efforts to sideline non-BJP states like ours, as well as its anti-federal mindset,” said the CM , pointing to the gap between the Fiscal Deficit targets fixed for the Union and States for short and medium term.

Ashok Gehlot said that East Rajasthan Canal project was expected to get the status of a national project. It was also expected that Rajasthan would get special state status, but this did not happen. He recalled that BJP had vehemently opposed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) during the UPA government. But the same BJP is now promoting it ever since it came to power. If instead of opposing FDI for political reasons, had the BJP supported the UPA in the interest of the country, the country would have attracted heavy foreign investments.

Former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot said that it is clear from the Union Budget that the country's economic situation is a matter of concern and the Union government is struggling to bring back the economy on rails. The budget is going to increase inflation and there is no blueprint for improving the condition of farmers, unemployed, small scale industries and the middle class has been completely ignored.

The Punjab chief minister was most scathing in his criticism. The budget failed to address the growing problem of unemployment, which the Covid pandemic had exacerbated, he said. “And did the Finance Minister not find it necessary to even mention constitutional guarantee for the MSP, one of the key demands of the farmers battling cold and lathis at the doorstep of New Delhi for over two months now?” asked Captain Amarinder, lamenting the measly 2 per cent hike for Agriculture sector, which had been the only well performing sector for the country amid the lockdown.

He also flayed the Centre’s minimal focus on Education, which has seen a massive setback for lakhs of children hit by the digital divide amid the pandemic.

With no tax relief, the beleaguered middle class has also got nothing in this budget, he pointed out, adding that as against 25 per cent for the corporate sector, the middle class will continue to pay 35% Income Tax plus cess, along with 100 per cent indirect tax on petrol and diesel. The CM expressed shock over the Centre’s decision to go in for a virtual wholesale divestment of PSUs and government assets at a time when the economy was in the dumps.

The Government is behaving like an ostrich and has buried its head in the sand, refusing to see the reality, they said.

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