He misrepresented budget figures, says BJP

In a setback to the Congress, Rajasthan Assembly Speaker Kailash Meghwal has referred a breach of privilege charge against former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in connection with “misrepresentation of figures” in the 2013-14 State budget, to the Privilege Committee of the House.

Mr. Meghwal gave the ruling on a motion moved by BJP MLA Rao Rajendra Singh, the last day of the first session of the newly constituted Assembly on Friday. A day earlier, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said in her interim budget speech that the previous budget had misrepresented the revenue deficit and fiscal deficit as surplus.

This is probably the first time in the country that a State Assembly has decided to examine the facts and figures of a budget presented by a Chief Minister, who also held the Finance portfolio, to decide if his speech constituted breach of privilege.

Ms. Raje, who sought vote-on-account in her capacity as the Finance Minister, affirmed that the surplus budget of Rs.1,025 crore presented during the Congress rule had in fact the fiscal deficit of over three per cent as well as revenue deficit of Rs.475 crore.

Ms. Raje said her predecessor had depicted an estimate of Rs.710 crore for the social pension schemes, but had also announced that an additional authorisation of Rs.1,500 crore would be made for the schemes later. “If this additional burden had been included in the budget, the revenue surplus would have actually turned into a deficit of Rs.475 crore,” she said.

Because of the “deliberate errors,” the revenue surplus budget in the first three quarters of 2013-14 turned out to be a deficit budget during the BJP’s tenure. The fiscal deficit also crossed the three per cent mark.

The Congress has reacted sharply, saying the budget estimates could not become the subject of privilege.

“No privilege motion has ever been accepted against a Finance Minister in the Centre or the States on the basis of a budget presentation,” said senior Congress MLA Pradyuman Singh.

However, Mr. Rajendra Singh, demanding that the terms of reference be laid down for the Privilege Committee in the matter, said he would prove the charges when he was called to depose before the panel.

The Speaker announced that the Privilege Committee would submit its report within six months.