The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Too bold for Cong, not BJP

New Delhi, Feb. 28: The BJP said it lacks 'boldness' but P. Chidambaram's budget appears to have been bold enough to put even his camp in some discomfort.

The Congress, sources said, might ask the finance minister to reconsider his proposal to impose a 0.1 per cent tax on cash withdrawals of over Rs 10,000 from banks on a single day.

Spokesperson Anand Sharma said the party would take up the revenue mobilisation move when Parliament debates the budget.

Sharma voiced his reservation soon after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh defended it saying: 'I think it is a tax which is not going to impose unnecessary burden on the common man.'

The Opposition criticised the move and disputed the claim that it would check black money. 'It is ridiculous. The provision has made the entire budget exercise a laughing matter,' said former Prime Minister A.B Vajpayee.

BJP chief L.K. Advani described the budget as 'uninspiring and lacking in boldness'. 'This only betrays a lack of confidence about the UPA government's longevity,' he said.

In a statement, Advani said though the budget contained a 'plethora of promises and, correspondingly, a string of announcements about outlays', the finance minister had simultaneously admitted that 'outlays are not outcomes'.

Former finance minister Jaswant Singh defined the budget as being 'short on candour and high on dissimulation' and called the exercise a 'missed opportunity'.

'The finance minister has attempted to dress up untenable assertions as if they were path-breaking new thoughts,' he said. 'This is why I say cautiously that continuity in the management of a nation's economics is not a bad thing.'

The BJP leader contested Chidambaram's statement that the 'foundation of his budget was growth and equity'. 'I have serious doubts about both. There is some lip service to the national common minimum programme but that is more minimum than common'.

But the Congress spokesperson said Chidambaram has honoured promises the ruling coalition made in the common document.

The budget is 'growth-oriented' and Chidambaram, Sharma added, 'has launched an assault on poverty and unemployment' without losing sight of creating an investment-friendly atmosphere for achieving and sustaining the target of 7-8 per cent growth.

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