Budget 2020: From P Chidambaram to Sitaram Yechury, Opposition leaders slam Nirmala Sitharaman, say she served only 'platitudes and slogans'

Soon after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam unveiled the Union Budget 2020-21, Opposition leaders tore into the Budget, claiming that if offered no concrete solutions to the challenges facing the economy

FP Staff February 01, 2020 18:22:52 IST
Budget 2020: From P Chidambaram to Sitaram Yechury, Opposition leaders slam Nirmala Sitharaman, say she served only 'platitudes and slogans'
  • Soon after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam unveiled the Union Budget 2020-21, Opposition leaders tore into the Budget, claiming that if offered no concrete solutions to the challenges facing the economy

  • Congress leader P Chidambaram said the Modi government is in complete denial that the economy faces a 'grave macro economic challenge'

  • Rahul Gandhi claimed that the budget was repetitive and did not contain any strategic idea or anything concrete.

After Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam unveiled the Union Budget 2020-21, Opposition leaders tore into her and the document, claiming it offered no concrete solutions to the challenges facing the economy.

 

Leading the charge was senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who said the Modi government is in complete denial that the economy faces a "grave macro economic challenge" and it has given up on reviving the economy, accelerating growth or creating jobs.

There is nothing in the Budget that leads one to believe that growth will revive in 2020-21 and the claim of 6 to 6.5 percent growth next year is "astonishing and even irresponsible", the former finance minister said at a press conference.

Budget 2020 From P Chidambaram to Sitaram Yechury Opposition leaders slam Nirmala Sitharaman say she served only platitudes and slogans

Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram addressed a press conference on the Union Budget 2020-21, at AICC headquarters in New Delhi. PTI

"The government has given up on reviving the economy or accelerating the growth rate or promoting private investment or increasing efficiency or creating jobs or winning a greater share of world trade," he said.

He said the government "does not believe" in reforms and certainly not in structural reforms as the finance minister has outrightly rejected every reform idea in the Economic Survey. "Did the FM read the Economic Survey? Was the chief economic adviser privy to the content of the Budget speech? I think the answer to both questions is in the negative," Chidambaram said.

There were multiple themes, segments and programmes in the Budget speech, leaving the listener dazed and confused, he claimed.

"It was a laundry list of old (that is current) programmes. I am pretty certain that even the most loyal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP or supporter cannot latch on to any idea or statement in the Budget speech and take it to the people," Chidambaram said.

If the ongoing programmes have failed the people, how can throwing more money into the ongoing programmes change anything, he asked.

"You did not ask for such a budget and you did not deserve such a budget for voting the BJP to power. But you have to live with it until the government is forced to revisit it, as it did in 2019," Chidambaram said.

The Indian economy is demand-constrained and investment-starved, and the finance minister has not acknowledged these two challenges, he said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too echoed the criticism, claiming that the budget was repetitive and did not contain any strategic idea or anything concrete.

Talking to reporters outside Parliament soon after the presentation of the budget, "The main issues confronting this country today are unemployment and the situation as far as the economy is concerned. I did not see any concrete idea, any strategic idea that would help our youngsters get jobs. I saw a lot of tactical stuff, redundant things, I did not see any central idea," he told reporters.

He said the Union Budget describes the government quite well, which is of "all talking" and nothing concrete. He also hit out at the finance minister for her 160-minute long speech, which he said, contained "nothing of consequence."

CPM's Sitaram Yechury also slammed the Budget, claiming that nothing substantial was being done to address a host a of economic concerns such as increasing unemployment, farmers' suicides and price rise.

Opposition leader Sharad Yadav said the economic growth is at a low of 4.5 percent and the issue of unemployment has become grave but the Budget offers nothing to tackle these problems.  It does not touch on the issues such as  farmer suicides, poverty, rising inflation, cases of bank frauds, he said, demanding that Sitharaman should "apologise" for "ruining" the economy.

BJP ally JD(U) praised the Budget for its initiative on all fronts, but added that more could have been done to address the "rural distress".

Mamata Banerjee criticises disinvestment plans

Expressing her opposition to the Central government's proposal to sell a part of its shares in Life Insurance Corporation, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee described it as a plan to "ambush" the legacy of public institutions.

Earlier in the day, Sitharaman  said the insurance behemoth, fully-owned by the Central government, will be listed as part of the government's disinvestment initiative. Established in 1956, LIC  has the highest market share in the life insurance segment in the country.

Regional parties, states disappointed

Regional parties, too expressed dissatisfaction with the budgetary provisions for respective states.

Arvind Kejriwal, AAP chief and chief minister of Delhi, which heads to polls in on 8 February, alleged that step-motherly treatment has been meted out to Delhi again in the Union Budget.

"Delhi had high expectations from the Budget, but step-motherly treatment has been meted out to it again," he posted on Twitter in Hindi. He also took potshots at the BJP, asking, ""When Delhi doesn't figure in the BJP's priorities, why should people vote for it?"

The AAP national convenor also asked that if the BJP was disappointing Delhi before the Assembly elections "will it fulfill its promises after the polls?"

In Maharashtra, the ruling Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress on Saturday termed as "disappointing" the Union Budget, which they said didn't offer much to the "highest tax-payers" of Maharashtra and Mumbai.

"The budget has done injustice to Mumbai and Maharashtra," tweeted Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray from his official Twitter handle, adding that the budget seems to have to no provisions for the development of infrastructure in Mumbai, as also for the funding of the Metro project or the development of rail services in the city.

Thackeray also hit out at the government for failing to make adequate provisions for women, children, the elderly and for persons with disabilities.

The Maharashtra Congress said that the budget is like a "new bottle containing old wine", which has disappointed the "highest tax payers".

"The budget has left Maharashtra and Mumbai the most disappointed. Mumbai gives highest tax, Maharashtra gives highest tax to the Centre, but they were completely ignored (in the budget)," PTI quoted Maharashtra revenue minister and state Congress president Balasaheb Thorat as saying.

Claiming that current agricultural growth rate is not moving beyond 2 percent when it should be at 11 percent to achieve the goal set by the Modi government, Thorat questioned the Centre's claim of doubling the income of farmers by 2022

"How are they going to double it then? So, it is clear they have made a false announcement," he added.

The Budget has introduced new slabs and reduced the tax rate for different slabs for an individual income of up to Rs 15 lakh per annum, if a taxpayer opts for foregoing exemptions and deductions.

Referring to the announcement, Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said there was no clarity about the option the government has offered.  "Like who will not like to get tax benefit? Suppose if a person is investing in LIC or MediClaim, why will a person not opt for tax benefit? People basically do these investments for tax benefit apart from getting an insurance (cover). So, there is no clarity on this," she said.

The Sena leader expressed concern over "closing down" of government-owned enterprises like the Air India. "So, this is a major drawback. Plus, they are banking completely on LIC. Almost 290 million people are investing in the LIC. That means the government's eye is on public money," she added.

NCP spokesperson Mahesh Tapase accused the government of "over commitment and under delivery" leading to loss of faith of investors, industry sector and consumers. "Instant negative reaction by the stock market proves this," he said.

Tapase said the current gross domestic product figures do not support the government's claim of achieving the target of $5 trillion economy.

The NCP leader also questioned the announcement of five new smart cities at a time when nothing much allegedly changed in the case of 100 smart cities the government had earlier declared. "The BJP should steer away from vote banks politics and concentrate more on economic prosperity of the common man if it is serious about a higher GDP," he added.

In Andhra Pradesh, the ruling YSR Congress and the Opposition Telugu Desam Party both dubbed the Union budget 2020-21 as disappointing for the state and decried non-allocation of grants that were overdue to the state.

YSRC parliamentary party leader V Vijayasai Reddy said the budget was totally disappointing as the state got only an empty hand.

"There was no mention of the special category status to the state or various incentives. Neither was there a mention of the special grant for backward districts development nor promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014," he lamented.

Noting that the Centre should have released more funds for the Polavaram multipurpose project, the Rajya Sabha member said they would raise the injustice done to Andhra with the Centre.

TDP politburo member Yanamala Ramakrishnudu blamed the YSRC government for failing to extract the states due from the Centre.

"The faulty policies of the Jagan Mohan Reddy government have brought disgrace to the state, which has been in chaos because of the "inept" governance. Though the YSRC leadership boasted it would force the Centre to release more funds to the state, it has clearly failed as the Budget indicated," the former finance minister said.

He also said that the chief minister owes an explanation to people on the failure to secure adequate Central grants.

NDA constituents in Tamil Nadu, including the AIADMK on Saturday welcomed the Union budget, but the Opposition, led by the DMK, lashed out at its various proposals.

While Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami lauded the budget, DMK president and state Leader of Opposition MK Stalin said
the annual exercise did not address issues like the economic slowdown and unemployment.

Stalin criticised the Budget, saying there were no major allocations for Tamil Nadu and accused the Centre of furthering its agenda of "Hindi imposition" .

"This Budget is more of a cultural imposition, with scant regard for the economic slowdown and slowing rural growth," PTI quoted him as saying. "The BJP government, which is keen on Hindi imposition in anything... has called the Indus Valley civilisation Saraswathi Sindhu Civilisation in the Budget," he said in a statement.

Further, the long Budget address by Sitharaman was 'directionless,' he added.

Follow full coverage of Union Budget 2020-21 here

Sitharaman gave relief to companies on payment of dividend in the Union Budget as the government looked to boost consumption to bring the economy out of the worst slowdown in 11 years.

The minister proposed raising customs duty on a variety of products ranging from tableware and kitchenware, electrical appliances to footwear, furniture, stationery and toys to give a level playing field to domestic companies and boost 'Make in India'.

With inputs from PTI 

 

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