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Finance Minister being kept out of Budget loop: Prithviraj Chavan

Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.   | Photo Credit: ASHISH BAJAJ

Prime Minister has taken control, Nirmala will merely be reading it, says former Maharashtra chief minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and not Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has scripted this year’s Union Budget, senior Congressman and former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said on Wednesday. Mr. Chavan said a series of pre-Budget meetings have been held in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Ms. Sitharaman was not kept in the loop regarding these.

“There is a lot of politics going on over the forthcoming Budget. There were 13 pre-Budget meetings held in the PMO and it is surprising that the Finance Minister was not invited to these meetings,” said Mr. Chavan. It was strange, he said, that Ms. Sitharaman was not present at a meeting of top industrialists with the PM, and Home Minister Amit Shah. “Does it indicate a lack of confidence in her [Ms. Sitharaman] on the Prime Minister’s part? If so, she should be asked to demit office. If the PM is not happy with her performance, she ought to be replaced… This manoeuvring is bound to demoralise the Finance Ministry,” said Mr. Chavan.

Mr. Chavan also said while traditionally, the entire budgetary process took place in the Finance Ministry under the guidance of the Finance Minister, this time round, the Prime Minister had taken control. “This is unprecedented in the country’s history. This time, the Finance Minister will merely be reading out the Budget speech, but the actual Budget will be conceived by the PM… Looking at the dismal economic condition, there is not much to expect from the Budget,” he said.

Given that the country’s gross domestic product growth had slumped to 4.5%, Mr. Chavan said Mr. Modi’s projection of a $5 trillion economy by 2024 was “a pipe dream”. “It is impossible to achieve that at the country’s present and dismal growth rate. Unless we grow at 8% or 10% each year, it is pointless to talk about it,” he said.

Hitting out at the Modi government’s hollow electoral promises of fighting the scourge of black money, he said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government had not taken any action on this count.

“Even Pakistan has investigated the Panama Papers scam, which resulted in former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation… the case also resulted in the premier of Iceland [Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson] stepping down, but there have been no such investigations on the part of the Modi government to retrieve black money or bring economic offenders to book,” Mr. Chavan said.

On the Supreme Court’s refusal to stay the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 without hearing the Centre first, Mr. Chavan said the court, which had granted the Centre four weeks to file its response, might have taken a decision earlier as protests against the legislation had erupted across the country.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 2:33:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/finance-minister-being-kept-out-of-budget-loop-prithviraj-chavan/article30628926.ece

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