News Frontliner Web Desk, 2 February 2019: Converting the vote-on-account or interim budget into a full-fledged election manifesto, BJP-led NDA government under the leadership of Narendra Modi has virtually tried to woo the middle class and the farmers to win the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
In the absence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Union Minister Piyush Goyal, presented a budget proposal keeping the focussed on immediate relief such as easing income tax rules, favourable loan terms for small businesses, write-off farm loan and direct transfer of cash to small farmers.
The opposition has already termed the Budget proposals announced today, to be a testimony of BJP’s fear and desperation about what the verdict of the people might be in the upcoming Lok Sabha poll by May 2019.
Yesterday’s interim budget was virtually the last chance for BJP to cover up its lost base among middle-class and farmers after it lost three major states in last year’s elections to rival Congress. Probably, the government on Thursday went into damage control mode as a yet-to-be-released report which has been accessed by media houses said unemployment was at a four-decade high in 2017-18. However, there was no mention of jobs in the budget.
Dr. Manmohan Singh, who is widely recognised for the economic reforms which he introduced in 1991 when he was the finance minister, termed Thursday’s budget as “election budget”, and pointed out that the government has not worked out the expenditure in the interim budget.
Former finance minister, P Chidambaram Dubbed the interim budget “An account for votes instead of a Vote on Account”, and said the tax benefits cannot translate into reality unless it receives the approval from the next government.
CPI(M) Politburo in a press release pointed out that though the government earlier claimed in Parliament of making a new allocation of Rs, 20000 crore for the income support scheme for farmers and implement it from 1 December 2018, the interim budget has virtually decreased the allocation in the income support scheme, as sending 6,000 INR to small farmers directly into their bank accounts will cost Rs. 75,000 crore. This again translates into a scheme which promises a farmer household of 4 people an income ‘support’ of 4 INR per person per day.
Government’s attempt to woo the unorganised sector after an estimated 200 million workers across various sectors carried out a two-day nationwide strike on January 8-9. has been dubbed by the Politburo as another ‘Jumla’. Promising a pension of a meager sum of only 3000 INR per month after 32 years of a person contributing 100 INR every month speaks in itself about the whole thing, said the Politburo statement.
The Budget presented before the Parliament yesterday by the acting Finance Minister cannot be the final budget for this year because the government presenting it, and the Lok Sabha considering it, will both cease to exist less than two months into the financial year to which the budget pertains.