Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday mounted a sharp attack on the BJP-led government’s last budget, terming the proposal to provide assured income support of ₹6,000 a year to small farmers as an ‘insult’ to the intended beneficiaries. He also pointed to reports showing unemployment in the country at a 45-year high as reflecting the government’s failure on the jobs front.
“I think it’s an insult to the Indian farmer to turn around and tell him that you are going to give him ₹17 a day; there couldn’t have been bigger insult than this,” Mr. Gandhi told reporters. “And as far as jobs are concerned, everybody knows that we are on a 45-year-high of unemployment. So, there is complete failure on these two fronts,” he added.
“The surgical strike is going to happen on Mr. Modi in the next two months,” the Congress leader said, when asked if the budget proposals were a ‘surgical strike’ by the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the gegeneral elections. “There is going to be one surgical strike after the other: on Rafale, on demonetisation, on jobs and agriculture,” Mr. Gandhi asserted.
“My one line comment on the Budget is that it was not a Vote on Account but an Account for Votes,” former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said.
He also pointed out that the budget document was silent on jobs, education and described the income tax sops for the middle class as ‘mere’ tweaking of slabs.
The former Finance Minister said the Congress party’s promise of a minimum income guarantee could not be compared with the government’s assured income support that he likened to an offer of ‘half a cup of tea’. “Please do not compare this ‘half a cup of tea scheme’, for what we have in mind is relief to every poor household so that every poor household comes up to a level of minimum income,” he said, referring to the Congress’s promise of a minimum income guarantee.
Mr. Chidambaram also promised a ‘better designed tax architecture’.
“We have always pleaded for a completely new direct taxes code which will completely redesign the architecture of income tax. So, our outlook is a far more reformist outlook and you will see that if and when the Congress Party is voted to power and we present our statement of intent and policy,” he said.