Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the Centre’s interim Budget presented on Friday as an “election budget” and said it will have implications on the General Elections scheduled for later this year.
In his Budget speech, Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal proposed a full tax rebate for individual taxpayers with annual income up to Rs 5 lakh, pension scheme for workers in the unorganised sector and assured income support for farmers with small landholdings.
“In these circumstances of the case, concessions to farmers and concessions to middle class will obviously have implications in the election,” Singh told NDTV.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi claimed the Centre’s “incompetence and arrogance” for five years had destroyed the lives of the farmers. “Giving them Rs 17 a day is an insult to everything they stand and work for,” he said.
Meanwhile, Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram criticised the interim Budget, saying it was a copy of the Congress’ ideas for the poor. “Thank you Interim FM for copying the Congress’ declaration that the poor have the first right to the resources of the country,” Chidambaram said on Twitter. “It was not a Vote on Account. It was an Account for Votes.”
Addressing a press conference, Chidambaram also criticised the Centre’s proposal to give Rs 6,000 per year to farmers who own up to two hectares of land. “They are giving Rs 6,000 per farmer which is about Rs 17 a day for a farmer family,” Chidambaram told reporters. “When you call that a great relief for the farmer, I am surprised.”
He further said: “The Interim Finance Minister tested our patience by the longest interim budget speech in the recent memory. It was not an interim budget, it was a full fledged budget accompanied by an election campaign speech.”
Chidambaram claimed that the government has further weakened fiscal stability. “For the second year in succession the government has missed the Fiscal Deficit target,” he said. “The revised estimate shows a slippage from 3.3 per cent to 3.4 per cent. Worse, for 2019-20 too, the government has proposed an FD of 3.4 per cent. The government has thrown the FRBM Act out of the window.”
The former Union finance minister said a number of announcements such as the pension scheme and the new department of fisheries were “last-gasp announcements before the Lok Sabha elections. “The question that naturally springs to one’s mind is if these were important and necessary interventions, what was the government doing for five years?”
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge also termed the Budget 2019 as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s “election manifesto”. Kharge said the promises made in the Budget are “jumlas” (empty promises).
“This is all being done for elections. I directly charge them of paying bribe to voters,” Kharge alleged.
Kharge claimed nothing was announced for the poor in this Budget. “There is politics in everything they do...This budget is only an election manifesto that the BJP read in Parliament and it is only for getting votes,” he said.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor termed the Budget a “damp squib”. “There is a lot of fantasy language and castles being constructed in the air,” Tharoor told reporters, according to IANS. “There is very little actually happening in real terms.”
He, however, praised the tax exemption proposed for middle-class individuals earning up to Rs 5 lakh annually. “Only one thing on which most people applauded, and on which I don’t have any difficulty, is the deduction of tax for the middle class,” Tharoor added.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Budget had no value as the government’s term would soon end, PTI reported. “Who will implement this [Interim Budget]? Will the new government that will come into being implement this budget?” she asked. “Before election, a vote on account is placed.”
Referring to the farmers’ welfare scheme, the Trinamool Congress chief asked why the BJP government had not announced a single proposal to benefit the farm sector during the last four years in power. “The government does not have any moral right to place such an announcement,” she added.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal described the Budget as “the final ‘jumla’ [gimmick] of the Modi government”.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi Working President KT Rama Rao said the farmers’ welfare programme was an “imitation” of his state’s Rythu Bandhu scheme, albeit with slight modifications, according to PTI. “As they say, imitation is the best form of flattery,” Rao added.
In Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme, or Farmers’ Investment Support Scheme, Rs 8,000 per acre is paid to farmers in two instalments per crop season. The scheme was launched in May.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy asked if the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was involved in the preparation of the Budget, according to ANI.
“I want to ask if this Budget was prepared by officials of the Finance Department or the RSS? In this Budget, Narendra Modi has given cotton candy for farmers,” he said. “When I announced loan waiver scheme, PM mocked it as lollipop. Friends of the BJP have prepared this budget.”
Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said the Budget “rubs salt in the wounds of farmers”. “The ‘historic’ Rs 6,000 a year for a family of 5 translates to Rs 3.3 a day,” he tweeted. “This is even lower than MNREGA or old-age pension!”
Communist Party of India leader D Raja said the Budget was a cover-up for the government’s “monumental failure” in managing the economy. “It is not a growth-oriented budget,” he told PTI. “No measures were announced to reduce poverty. It is a cover-up for their monumental failure in managing the economy.”
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik welcomed the tax benefits for middle and lower income groups. “I welcome direct benefit transfer to both small and marginal farmers on lines of our KALIA scheme,” he said. “However, it would’ve benefited farmers more if quantum of assistance is equal or more than KALIA Scheme.”
You can follow our complete coverage of Budget 2019 here.