Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala on Friday said the first Budget of Narendra Modi government’s second tenure was “utterly lacklustre, nondescript, uninspiring and directionless”. He said that by effectively increasing petrol and diesel prices, the government had “rubbed salt on the wounds” of the common man.
Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget in Parliament. Among her key proposals was the increase of Re 1 per litre in both Special Additional Excise Duty, and Road and Infrastructure Cess for petrol and diesel.
Even while the Budget speech was on, Surjewala tweeted: “Maximum intent, minimum content! Maximum catchphrases, minimum catch-points!”
He later asked whether “empty words” could solve the agrarian distress. He said there was no road map to double farmers’ income, no promise to give minimum support prices, or ways to tackle drought and improve the rural economy.
In her Budget speech, Sitharaman said that “ease of doing business and ease of living” should apply to farmers too. She spoke about going back to the basics on “zero-budget farming”. “Steps such as this can help in doubling our farmers’ income in time for our 75th year of Independence,” she said.
In one of his tweets, Surjewala asked: “Can a mundane jugglery of ‘acronyms’ pass off for vision for a ‘New India’?”
The Congress spokesperson said that while the Budget offered some income tax relief for companies with turnover of up to Rs 400 crore, there was none for honest taxpayers. He added that the Budget was a “betrayal” of India’s youth as it had no word on jobs, public education or high fees.
The government proposed to extend the lower tax rate of 25% for companies to those with annual turnover of up to Rs 400 crore. It was so far applicable to companies with up to Rs 250 crore annual turnover.
Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram criticised the Union Budget, claiming that it gave no indication of how the government planned to reverse the crisis in the agricultural sector, Moneycontrol reported.
Sitharaman should have been transparent about how much revenue the government expects to raise with tax increases, Chidambaram said. “As to taxing the rich, it is unclear whether the effective tax rate has been increased from 3% to 7%, or by 7%,” the Congress leader added.
“We are registering our protest here, but what else can people do?” the former finance minister said. “As a political party, we are articulating the disgruntlement of the common people on their exploitation through taxation.”
Chidambaram said Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed unwilling to carry out radical reforms. “It is clear that while the economists are advocating structural reforms, those in government do not believe in it,” he said. “I think Mr Modi is willing to do incremental reforms, and not bite the bullet to do radical reforms.”
The Congress leader claimed that while Sitharaman asserted that the government had reduced Non-Performing Assets by Rs 1 lakh crore, she forgot to mention that banks had written off Rs 5.55 lakh crore of bad loans in the same period, ANI reported.
Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that the budget was anti-development, ANI reported. “They promised growth in the farming sector, which remained false,” he said. Siddaramaiah said the farmers are not getting the Minimum Selling Price, and are in a “drastic condition”.
Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Raghav Chadha said the Budget did not address any of the four big economic challenges at the moment: unemployment, agricultural distress, consumption slowdown, and private investment drought.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury claimed the Budget was fraudulent. He said Sitharaman had used the revised estimates of the interim Budget presented in February as the revised estimates for the entire 2018-’19 financial year. “Expenditure cuts in the last quarter in the run up to polls are not accounted for!” Yechury tweeted. “So a rosy picture of the economy is based on jugglery.”