New Delhi Bureau

Congress is confident that a UPA minister will present next budget

Government has not done enough to stimulate the flagging growth: Yechury

Jayanti Natarajan rejects criticism that the budget was “lacklustre”

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties on Monday came out strongly against the interim budget, while the Congress described the presentation as an exercise in continuity. While Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury lamented that the government had not done enough to stimulate the flagging growth and ensure more employment, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha said the government had spent too much without any regard to the growing fiscal deficit, which could lead to the kind of economic crisis of 1991.

Cover-up budget: CPI

The Communist Party of India said it looked that the interim budget was made with an eye on politics rather than economics. “It is a cover-up budget. Surprisingly, there is no mention of the serious economic crisis the country is facing,” it said.

CPI secretary and MP D. Raja said the Minister holding Finance sought to paint a rosy picture of the economy and performance of the Congress-led UPA government. The government made no attempt to prevent growing unemployment and job losses in the wake of the global meltdown.

“Lollipop budget”

His party colleague Gurudas Dasgupta described the exercise as a “lollipop budget” meant for the coming Lok Sabha election.

Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan, while describing the presentation as an exercise in continuity, said the UPA was “confident that the next budget would also be presented by a finance minister of the alliance.”

Ms Natarajan pointed out that Minister Pranab Mukherjee outlined the UPA’s achievements over the last five years with the focus on the welfare of the “aam aadmi,” farmers and the disadvantaged sections of society.

“Even at a time of a global recession, the Indian economy has continued to be resilient and holds promise of continued growth,” she said.

Rejecting criticism that the budget was “lacklustre,” she pointed out that the UPA did not have the mandate to present a full sixth budget or give policy thrusts. Two stimulus packages for the economy were announced over the last few months.

The BJP, on its part, was scathing in its criticism. “Five years ago the UPA started its journey of misgovernance,” Mr. Jaswant Singh said.

His party colleague, Mr. Yashwant Sinha said the current level of deficit financing — the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council had put this figure at 10 per cent, against the government claim of 6 per cent for the current fiscal year — would spell disaster for the future.

Mr. Sinha said that with revenue collection falling as a result of the industrial slowdown, reckless spending and inaccurate accounting in successive budgets, the Indian economy would see “unprecedented levels of fiscal deficit going up to 13 per cent if the deficit of States were to be added to that of the Union budget.” Flexibility for the successor government had become limited.

“Four golden years”

During the “four golden years” of high growth between 2004 and 2008, the government should have provided a “roof over our heads” to protect the country from the “global hurricane of financial meltdown,” but “we find ourselves unprepared,” he added.

Finally, notwithstanding the reference to “four golden years,” the BJP was not prepared to applaud even the three years of successive growth of over 9 per cent. “That was the result of the momentum generated by the National Democratic Alliance government policies,” the BJP leaders said.

Asked whether they disputed the UPA claim of high growth rate in those years and the growth of 3.5 per cent in agriculture, they did not respond.

The Indian National Lok Dal described the interim budget as “disappointing and lacklustre,” which failed to address the expectations of all sections, especially farmers, youth and traders.

Party secretary general and MP Ajay Singh Chautala said the interim budget did not contain any policy response to the challenging economic situation.

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