Budget 2015: Congress disappointed as Jaitley gives them nothing to complain about

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has disappointed the Congress. No, it’s not about the ritual disappointment over the annual budget presented by a rival party. It's about how Jaitley gave them no specific reason to complain. If they expected the BJP-led government to go for drastic pruning in social sector spending, even announce discontinuation of some its pet schemes, it has not happened. He left them with no issue to make political capital of.

 Budget 2015: Congress disappointed as Jaitley gives them nothing to complain about

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

When Arun Jaitley listed three big achievements of the government as Jan Dhan Yojana, coal blocks auction and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, it more or less said that the government is taking most of UPA’s social agenda forward. The allocation of an extra Rs 5000 crore for MNREGA has also raised many eyebrows. It took the Opposition by surprise, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s jibe at the scheme on Friday, in which he said that it was living proof of UPA’s failure.

“It is a pro-corporate budget,” is all Sonia Gandhi said just after the speech, indicating that her party will react after going through the fine points of the budget. While one has to wait a few hours for that, the immediate reaction of the party is one of someone taken by surprise.

It almost appeared that a Congress leader was speaking when the Finance Minister spoke of the need to plug leakages in subsidies provided by the Centre, and moving towards a cashless economy. Most of the homework like linking Jan Dhan scheme to Aadhaar cards was done under the UPA regime. The NDA has also promised a roadmap for social security through various schemes, promoting macro entrepreneurship, setting up student financial aid system under the PM Vidya Laxmi scheme and National Skill Mission for youth below 25 years of age.

“This is an anti-poor Budget. Rural sector and youth have got nothing to boost their purchasing power,” senior Congress leader Kamal Nath told reporters in Parliament. “Even service tax has gone up by two percent,” he added. However, he refused to comment further.

Congress leaders led by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and former Commerce Minister Anand Sharma have got down to business, reading the fine print of the budget before they target the NDA in a more coherent manner. But the thrust of the criticism is likely to be in the direction of agriculture, black money and reduction of corporate tax.

“There hasn’t been much slippage in areas like social sector, but what about the agriculture sector and poor,” said Mani Shankar Aiyar, Congress leader. “Last mile delivery still remains a problem, there’s no road for taking power to local level,” he added. “Implementation of the budget will be the key. It’s corporate-friendly and the aam aadmi, and poor are completely forgotten,” tweeted Shashi Tharoor.

The Opposition attacked NDA not just for renaming schemes - like UPA’s National Pension Scheme (which has been renamed Atal Pension Yojana) - but also for playing to the gallery when it came to giving states more share of the tax pie. “They are announcing IITs and IIMs in Bihar and Bengal and other schemes under special assistance. Why these states only?” said Jitin Prasada, former Union Minister and Congress leader. “The corporate sector will pay less tax while common man will pay more service tax, it is anti-people and a political budget to say the least,” he added.

Even though the NDA has managed to pull off a better budget than what the Congress expected, what seems to have caught them off-guard is NDA staying on course with social sector schemes.

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Updated Date: Mar 01, 2015 09:41:56 IST