The Telegraph
Sunday , February 16 , 2014
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Gogoi defends Bihu ‘offering’
- Opposition slams dole, vote-on-account bill passed in Assembly

Guwahati, Feb. 15: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today defended his move of giving Rongali Bihu gift of Rs 200 to people of the BPL category as mentioned in an interim budget for 2014-15.

Responding to the budget discussion, Gogoi told the House this afternoon that if giving money to the poor was politics then he supported the same.

The Opposition said the Rongali Bihu gift was nothing but a ploy to garner votes in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.

“I am a politician and doing politics is my job. But if helping the poor is considered politics by the Opposition, I would love to do it again and again. My government has done enough for the poor and needy and a Rongali Bihu gift is simply one of those,” Gogoi said, asking the Opposition legislators in the Assembly to do the same.

“I propose to give a modest amount to the poor and the needy as a token of love and concern,” Gogoi said.

Rongali Bihu — the spring festival of Assam celebrated in mid-April — heralds a new Assamese calendar year.

Gogoi, who is also the finance minister, made the announcement of a Rongali Bihu gift while presenting a vote-on-account or interim budget for Rs 28,467,19,78,000 (nearly Rs 30,000 crore) in the Assembly on Thursday to meet the expenditure for six months from April 1 to September 20.

BJP legislator Ranjit Das, while participating in the interim budget discussion, said it would have been much better had Gogoi announced the purchase of gamosa from thousands of Assamese weavers on Rongali Bihu.

Das said purchasing gamosas would have given a huge financial boost to Assamese weavers.

AGP legislator Phani Bhusan Choudhury said as Gogoi has proposed to give the Rongali Bihu gift to poor and needy, it is time for the chief minister to give a definition of “needy”.

“We, the MLAs, can also be put in the needy category. Gogoi has to make things clear,” Choudhury said.

Gogoi said the state’s economy is completely stable now and his government has been successful in executing various public welfare schemes with its own funds.

“The central government has not given funds to all welfare schemes currently under execution in the state. When I took over as the chief minister of the state for the first time in 2001, I had to spend all my energy thinking how to ensure regular payment of salaries to government employees. Things have improved very since then and I no longer worry about giving salaries to employees,” the chief minister said.

The Assembly, however, passed the vote-on-account bill.