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Copycat battle on budget

Narendra Modi with US deputy secretary of state William Burns in New Delhi on Friday. Burns handed Modi a formal letter of invitation from Barack Obama to visit the US. (PTI)

New Delhi, July 11: BJP ministers today lined up to laud the Narendra Modi government’s first budget and counter Opposition criticism.

Law and justice minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was fielded at a news conference at the BJP headquarters this evening to formally respond to the Congress.

Junior ministers Prakash Javadekar and Nirmala Sitharaman, both former party spokespersons, did so separately at a long session at the headquarters in the afternoon. They explained the budget’s technical aspects and listed its main talking points. Others took to Twitter to praise finance minister Arun Jaitley.

The BJP appears to have been stung by the Congress’s charge — reinforced by commentators in the media — that the budget had nothing new to offer and was a copy of those presented by the UPA.

“The Congress has been saying that this is a copycat budget, (that) it has nothing new or inspirational. If this is the party’s observation, it obviously implies that the UPA’s budgets never inspired. But this budget is not a copy. It is a document of a new resurgent India, it holds out hope for a future roadmap. It expresses concern over digital India and rural India,” said Prasad, who has served as the BJP’s chief spokesperson.

A separate note from the BJP termed the budget “most comprehensive” and stressed that if it spoke of a “Mars Mission”, it also talked about an agenda for minorities.

Prasad was asked what had led to Rs 200 crore being set aside in the budget for Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s statue in Gujarat when, by the finance minister’s admission, the government was cash-strapped.

“Why? Is the country meant to only have statues of Nehru and Indira Gandhi? The legacy of Patel needs to be commemorated and told to succeeding generations. We are proud of his legacy,” he retorted.

The minister volunteered that “legacy” was also the reason behind allocation of funds for a war memorial and a police memorial for the first time. “These are the needs of the hour for India’s rejuvenation. These memorials are for those who sacrificed their lives for the country’s honour,” he said.

Asked about the stock market’s lukewarm response, Prasad said: “The market is not the only benchmark to assess a budget.”

Several other ministers rushed to applaud in a series of tweets that were later retweeted by the PMO.

“Laudable effort by fin. min @arunjaitley, whether it b fdi in def, Ganga cleanin, 1 rank I pension or sports university in Manipur,” junior foreign minister and former army chief Gen. V.K. Singh posted.

The ministers also made it a point to thank Jaitley for allocations to their respective departments.

Human resource development minister Smriti Irani wrote: “5 new IIMs in Maharashtra, Bihar, Odisha, Punjan HP. Congratulations!”

Health minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted: “Aims to keep people happy by taxing tobacco more.”

Power minister Piyush Goyal’s take: “The Hon’ble FM reinstated our government’s commitment of 24X7 power to all homes.”