| Tarun Gogoi reads the interim budget before placing it in the Assembly on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, Feb. 13: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today announced that the state government would give money as gift to the poor during Rongali Bihu, the state’s biggest festival.
The Opposition, however, has slammed the move as an attempt to woo voters ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Gogoi, who is also the finance minister, made the announcement after presenting a vote-on-account for Rs 28,467,19,78,000 (nearly Rs 30,000 crore) in the state Assembly this morning to meet the expenditure requirements for six months from April 1 to September 30, 2014.
Vote-on-account, also called interim budget, is a special provision to ensure that there is enough money at the government’s disposal to run the administration till a full budget is presented, which could be possible only after the Union budget is presented following the parliamentary polls.
“I hope to present the regular and detailed budget before September 30,” the chief minister said. “After two months the people of Assam will be celebrating Bihu. I propose to give a modest amount as Bihu gift to the poor and needy as a token of my love and concern for them,” said Gogoi, while delivering his speech in the Assembly.
He, however, did not mention what would be the “modest amount”.
“We are yet to determine the amount but it will not be less than Rs 200,” Gogoi told reporters outside the House.
He said those below poverty line would be eligible for the Bihu “gift”.
“It is an expression of my gratitude to the people for making me the longest-serving chief minister of the state,” Gogoi said, claiming that it has nothing to do with the upcoming general elections.
Describing the vote-on-account as election-centric, AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said Gogoi’s “Bihu gift” was an attempt to legalise corruption. “It is a common practice of Congress candidates to distribute money among voters in the dark of the night before elections and now they want to legalise it.”
Mahanta said there was nothing new in the interim budget as the state government was trying to mislead people by presenting the existing central schemes as new ones.
According to Gogoi, Assam’s economy grew at 5.87 per cent during 2013-2014. He said the state witnessed revenue surplus of Rs 1,554 crore in 2012-13.
The state government will also revise salaries of its employees on the lines of Seventh Pay Commission, which has already been constituted by the Centre.
“We will have to be extremely careful to avoid all wasteful expenditure and tap every possible revenue earning sources,” he said.
AIUDF leader Sirajuddin Ajmal called the budget Gogoi’s “poll lollipop”.
“Lower Assam was totally obliterated in the vote-on-account and there is nothing for the minorities and erosion affected people,” he said.
He said the vote-on-account “goes round and round like a jalebi” but failed to address serious issues the state is facing. “It also doesn’t have anything for industries,” Ajmal added.
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