Union Budget ‘let down like never before’, will unravel soon: Congress

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the fuel cess proposed in the Budget was a “cruel blow” to the average citizen, including farmers

P Chidambaram (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
P Chidambaram (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
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PTI

Asserting that the Union Budget was a "let down like never before", the Congress on Monday claimed that it will unravel soon and described it as one that has deceived people of India, especially the poor, the working class, migrants and farmers.

The party also described the imposition of cess on petrol and diesel in the budget as a "vengeful act" against the thousands of farmers who took out the tractor rally.

The opposition party said it was a case of "wrong diagnosis and prescription", and that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman could have been "brave" by extending help to the poor, but chose to be "timid".

Attacking the Centre, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that the Narendra Modi government plans to handover India's assets to crony capitalists.

"China occupied our territory & killed our soldiers. PM spends Diwali with them for PR photo-ops. Why hasn't he increased the Defence Budget for them," Gandhi tweeted.

His party colleague P Chidambaram said Sitharaman "deceived" those who were listening to her speech, especially the MPs, had no clue that she imposed cesses on a large number of products including petroleum and diesel -- Rs 2.50 on petrol per litre and Rs 4 on diesel per litre.

"It was a vengeful act against the thousands of farmers who took out the longest tractor rally in history. It was also a cruel blow to federalism because the states do not get a share of the revenue from cesses," the former finance minister said while addressing a press conference.

He said this was a "cruel blow" to the average citizen, including farmers.

"She deceived the people of India, especially the poor, the working class, the migrants, the farmers, the industrial units that had been closed down permanently, and those who had lost their jobs, both regular and informal, and are still looking for jobs," he alleged.

Asked about measures in the budget to give filip to infrastructure, he said, "This budget may have a mind behind it, but it certainly does not have a heart behind it."

The former finance minister also said that on a 10-point test suggested by him earlier, the budget fails on nine points and has barely passed on one of them.

Sitharaman presented the budget for 2021-22 in the Lok Sabha from a tablet, instead of a conventional paper document, the first paperless budget since Independence.

Reading out a party statement, Chidambaram said Sitharaman did not mention about the defence sector at all, "as if the Chinese had vacated occupied Indian territory".

She did not mention that the defence expenditure in 2021-22 will not see any significant rise, he said, adding that the farm sector has been "shortchanged".

"The FM had promised a budget 'like never before'. Her mandate was to present an annual statement of revenue and expenditure for 2021-22. What she did, however, was to estimate expenditure over 2 years or 3 years or 4 years or, in one case, over 5 years," he said.

She made a reference to the prime minister 14 times and to the farmers 11 times, he pointed out.

"The budget was a let down like never before. This budget, like the previous one, will unravel sooner than you think," he said.

Chidambaram said the numbers show that the fiscal situation is in a mess. He said the revenue deficit and fiscal deficit this year have exceeded every prediction, including the government's prediction.

"Investors and lenders will bristle," he said, on FM pegging fiscal deficit of 4.5 per cent by 2025-26 and not coming out with a credible plan.

He alleged that the FM paid special attention to poll-bound states as she announced large capital outlays for Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam.

"People are not fools: they know that the proposals are only outlays and the actual expenditure will happen only after the schemes are approved and over a period of several years depending upon the pace of implementation," he said.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the FM has only deceived people in this budget.

"Extreme injustice has been done to rural India and the poor," he said, alleging that the MGNREGA budget has been cut by 42 pc. "This attack of the Modi government on the poor labourers, SC, ST and backward will be fatal for rural India."

He alleged that farming and farmers' neglect continues as farm budget has been reduced by 6 pc, PM Kisan Samman budget reduced by 13 pc and budget for market intervention scheme reduced by 25 pc.

"In the Modi government's budget, all government properties will be sold from airport to rail, godowns to ports, roads to rail, power transmission line to BHEL. That is why 'Sell and eat everything and leave nothing'," he said.

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma tweeted, "the FM could have been brave but chose to be timid. The nation needed a bold budget and more direct transfers to the weaker sections to revive demand, restart job creation."

Sharma said that it is an otherwise "directionless" budget which will be forgotten in a few weeks.

Terming the budget "disappointing", Congress' deputy leader in Lok Sabha Gaurav Gogoi alleged that the BJP has put India into insolvency and bankruptcy and is busy selling public-owned assets to 12-15 major companies.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor took a dig at the Centre over the budget, saying "this BJP government reminds me of the garage mechanic who told his client, 'I couldn't fix your brakes, so I made your horn louder'."

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