Uncertainty over Delhi Budget presentation; AAP govt. cries foul

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claims the Centre has put the Delhi Government’s Budget on hold a day before it was going to be presented in the Assembly; MHA denies charge

Updated - March 21, 2023 11:10 am IST

Published - March 20, 2023 08:31 pm IST - New Delhi

Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot speaks during the Budget Session of the Delhi Legislative Assembly, in New Delhi on March 20.

Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot speaks during the Budget Session of the Delhi Legislative Assembly, in New Delhi on March 20. | Photo Credit: ANI

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday claimed the Centre has put the Delhi government’s budget on hold at the “last minute”.

In a late evening development a day before the Budget was to be presented in the Assembly, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal around 8 p.m. on Monday accused the BJP-led Central Government of “hooliganism for stalling” the budget. He was speaking at an event hosted by a T.V. channel.

According to a source at the Chief Minister’s office, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allegedly did not give permission for the budget to be tabled. Later in the night, the MHA said in a statement that in a letter sent to the Delhi Chief Secretary on March 17, it had asked the Delhi government to address some concerns raised by the Centre-appointed Lieutenant-Governor, Vinai Kumar Saxena, on the budget.

“The reply from GNCTD has been awaited for the past four days. For the benefit of the people of Delhi, the GNCTD should submit a reply immediately,” the statement read.

An official source in the L-G’s office said the Chief Minister had sent the file to the L-G and the latter had approved the budget on March 9, with certain observations and sent the file back to the CM.

The source said the L-G had flagged that “the actual expenditure on the capital component is only 20% of the proposed total budget, which is not “sufficient”, given the needs of a metropolis like Delhi.

“As against the proposed budget of ₹78,800 crore, the expenditure on capital components is indicated at ₹21,816 crore, which is only 27.68% of the budget. This also includes ₹5,586.92 crore on account of loan repayment, which, if excluded, will further reduce the capital component to ₹16,230 crore which is only 20% of the budget,” the L-G had said in its observations, the source said.

The source said the L-G had also flagged the government’s allocation for advertisements in the budget estimate 2023-24. “In his note to the government, the L-G said the expenditure incurred by the Directorate of Information and Publicity as per the revised estimate 2022-23 (of last year’s budget) is ₹272.21 crore against the budget estimate of ₹511.64 crore. However, the allocation for the budget estimate 2023-24 is ₹557.24 crore, which seems incomprehensible and unjustifiable,” the source said.

He added that the Delhi Government, “without responding to the L-G’s observations”, forwarded the file to the Ministry of Home Affairs for the President’s approval. He said the MHA also conveyed to the Delhi Government about the observations on March 17.

‘Kept in the dark’

Around 10 p.m., Delhi Finance Minister Kailash Gahlot, in a statement, accused Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar of “hiding the MHA’s letter for three days”.

“The budget was sent for the MHA’s approval as per regular practice well in advance on March 10. It is now learned that the MHA expressed some concerns and refused to give its approval through a letter sent to the Chief Secretary on March 17. For mysterious reasons, the Chief Secretary kept the letter hidden for three days,” he said.

Mr. Gahlot also said he only found out about the MHA’s letter at 2 p.m. on Monday and received it at 6 p.m. “Subsequently, we have responded to the MHA’s concerns and submitted the file back to the L-G’s office, after CM’s approval, at 9 p.m. today,” the Finance Minister said.

He also said that the “role of the Chief Secretary and the Finance Secretary of Delhi in delaying the budget” must be investigated.

Following Mr. Gahlot’s statement, Raj Niwas sources said the L-G approved the file and sent it back to the CM.

“The file was received at the L-G Secretariat at 9.25 p.m. and was sent back to the Chief Minister at 10.05 p.m., after the approval of L-G, for further action as per law,” the source said.

Later in the night, a source at the CMO said, “The L-G has sent the file back, but now the Finance Secretary has to send it to the MHA for approval. That is yet to happen. We are 100% not presenting the budget tomorrow.”

A source in the L-G House said the Finance Secretary has to send the file to the MHA for approval.

Meanwhile, Speaker Ram Niwas Goel said that the Assembly session will take place as scheduled even if the permission to present the budget is not given.

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