Let debate take place, Centre will prove budget is not anti-poor, he says

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday expressed his confidence that the UPA would remain in power after the 2014 general election.

At the same time, he shot down questions as to whether he was aiming for higher assignments when he maintained that his proposals for surcharge on income tax were just for one year because he was there for only one year. He was addressing a press conference.

Clarifying that he was presenting the fifth and final budget of this government, he said the Constitution was very clear that there would be an election every five years. Next year, the government would only present a Vote on Account.

Asked whether the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and farm loan waivers proved to be vote-spinners to bring the UPA back to power in 2009, he said there was no need to go into the debate on issues of populism. People, he maintained, knew to decide what was good for them.

“Come time, I’m confident, they will once again decide that the UPA rather than any other formation is better for them,” he stressed.

Mr. Chidambaram denied that he was pressured by his party into announcing a host of announcements such as the establishment of a bank for women and allocation of additional money to foot the food security law.

The Minister said he had followed his own instincts, beliefs and leanings to address issues of women’s indignities and insecurities and the frustrations of youth. These could not be swept under the carpet. Thousands of party men shared these fundamental beliefs and leanings and the party too supported them. This was why he was according them priority in the budget.

On Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s opposition and his threat to move cut motions, Mr. Chidambaram scotched concerns about the fate of the budget, saying it would be passed, as would the Finance Bill.

Let the debate take place, the government would address their concerns and drive home the point that the budget was not anti-poor, he said.

When reporters sought to interpret Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s promise for his budget as his emergence as a possible ally of the Congress in the next election, Mr. Chidambaram shot back, asking why “reporters were sad about it.” “Mr. Kumar had certain concerns, we addressed them and he took a balanced and non-political view and thanked me,” he said adding he was thankful to him for that.

Mr. Chidambaram said he would announce another set of decisions and measures during his reply to the debate on the budget and when passing the Finance Bill.

These announcements were being held back as Commerce Minister Anand Sharma would announce his amendments to the foreign trade policy next month, Mr. Chidambaram said: “He and I will be on the same page and support the proposed measures for boosting exports.”

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