‘Retrograde, inflationary and status quoist' was how Opposition parties described the Union budget unveiled by the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Even the UPA ally-Trinamool Congress — which has been hogging the limelight for several weeks — chose to dub it as ‘tolerable.'
The former Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha was most scathing in his criticism when he charged Mr. Mukherjee of missing a ‘golden opportunity' to lift the economy from a grave crisis. His contention was that the economic situation now was as grim as it was in 1991 and there was nothing in the budget which gave some hope to meet the challenges faced by the economy.
Pegging the additional taxes on account of the budget proposals at Rs. 175,803 crore, the BJP leader maintained that never in recent history so much burden had been imposed on the citizens. In sharp contrast the loss to the exchequer on account of the concessions in direct taxes was a mere Rs. 4,500 crore.
He lamented that despite such high projected revenue on account of new tax proposals, the fiscal deficit for the year 2012-13 would still be at a monstrous 5.1 percent. The estimate was based on the premise that subsidies were reducing by Rs. 26,000 crore.
Mr. Sinha said the Finance Minister failed to take any corrective steps. “He had an opportunity to take steps to enhance economic activity, increase the size and volume of Indian economy, raise higher revenues from higher economic activities and correct the fiscal deficit. Never in recent history have taxes been increased on the tax payer to the level as this budget has increased them”.
He complained about what he termed as area of gross neglect in the area of expenditure on Defence services and capital expenditure on Defence in the backdrop of huge raise in the Defence budget of Pakistan and China. “There is no mention, let alone any bold even on minimal reforms in the economy. Obviously, the government has no intention of embarking on that course.”
“This budget disappoints,” said Bahujan Samaj Party M.P. from Bundelkhand Vijay Bahadur Singh. “There is nothing inclusive about this budget. It is a routine budget that comes out of fear because the Congress has just faced elections in five States and seen the power of democracy. This budget further divides urban and rural India.”
Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh said the budget failed to address the twin challenge of checking price rise and raising investment. “Without investment, economic development cannot happen. The claim of the government that inflation will be checked in six months is a false assertion.”
“Now that Uttar Pradesh elections are over, the government has forgotten Bundelkhand region and remembered Vidarbha, where elections will take place in two years, for irrigation schemes. This selective behaviour is strange,'' he said.
CPI member from Rajya Sabha D. Raja termed the budget as “status quoist giving no indication of any course correction.” “It reveals the same neo liberal policies. The corporate sector has not been touched. I don't see any chance of inflation coming down. The cash transfer will have an adverse impact.''
His Lok Sabha colleague Gurudas Dasgupta said it was a “clerical budget” which any body could have presented. The agriculture crisis had not been addressed and there was “nothing” for employment generation. “They've already reduced the interest rate on Employees Provident Fund which will impact 550 million families in the country.”