The Congress on Wednesday said the Narendra Modi government was completely disconnected from the problems of India and this trait was manifested again in the budget which avoided dealing with the critical concerns of unemployment, prices, farm distress and abnormally rising economic inequality.
While former finance minister P. Chidambaram said "this is a callous budget that has betrayed the hopes of the vast majority of the people", party spokesperson Gourav Vallabh argued that the Modi government was not even interested in solving people’s problems and had reduced annual budget as ritual to mislead the nation.
"Much like the presidential address, the budget doesn’t even reflect the ground realities,” Vallabh told The Telegraph.
The statement issued by Chidambaram said: “The budget for 2023-24 and the budget speech of the finance minister show how far this government is removed from the people and their concerns about life, livelihood and the growing inequality between the rich and the poor. The finance minister has not mentioned the words unemployment, poverty, inequality or equity anywhere in her speech. Mercifully, she has mentioned the word poor twice in her speech. I am sure the people of India will take note of who are in the concerns of the government and who are not.”
While the phrase "Amrit Kaal" reverberated in the speech of the finance minister and reactions of the top BJP leaders including the Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi sought to puncture that hype by describing it as ‘Mitr Kaal’ (Friend’s era) budget. He tweeted, “Mitr Kaal Budget has: NO vision to create Jobs, NO plan to tackle Mehngai, NO intent to stem Inequality. 1% richest own 40% wealth, 50% poorest pay 64% of GST, 42% youth are unemployed- yet, PM doesn’t Care! This Budget proves Government has NO roadmap to build India’s future.”
Which friend was made clear by the party's communications chief, Jairam Ramesh. He tweeted: “In her budget speech, Finance Minister proudly announced huge incentives for green hydrogen, 50 new airports & heliports, coastal shipping, horticulture, grain storage. Quiz question: which politically powerful business group is either dominating, or has plans to dominate, these very sectors?”
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said: “The budget is an evidence of people’s declining faith in the Narendra Modi government. This budget is prepared keeping only elections in mind. There is no attempt to address the dreadful crisis of jobs. Modi government has made people’s life miserable. They have damaged the country’s economy and looted national resources. They have destroyed the banking sector. There are wilful defaulters of Rs three lakh crore. Fugitives have looted banks and fled the country. NPA slippage on banks is to the tune of 36 lakh crore. Not a word on why SBI and LIC have been pushed into peril”.
Analysing numbers, Chidambaram said: “Last year, the Government estimated the GDP for 2021-22 at Rs 232,14,703 and, assuming a nominal growth rate of 11.1%, projected the GDP for 2022-23 at Rs 258,00,000 crore. The GDP for 2021-22 has been since revised upward to Rs 236,64,637 crore. In today’s budget papers, the GDP for 2022-23 has been estimated at Rs 273,07,751 crore which yields a growth rate of 15.4%, much above the earlier estimate. Given this impressive number, real GDP ought to have grown in double-digits. Yet the minister (and the Economic Survey) put the GDP growth at only 7% this year. Will the government explain?”
Chidambaram added: “Please note that both capital expenditure of the central government and the effective capital expenditure are lower than the budget estimates. So, what drove growth in 2022-23? We know that private investment is down, exports are down and private consumption is stagnant. So, how does the Government explain the 7 per cent growth in the current year? Besides, in 2022-23, the growth rates in Q1 and Q2 have been estimated at 13.5% and 6.3%, respectively. So, we already have 9.9% growth in the first half of the year. If the whole year will only yield 7%, does that mean that Q3 and Q4 will record growth rates of only 4 to 4.5%. For the whole year, therefore, quarterly GDP growth rate is sliding: 13.5, 6.3, 4.2 and 4.0%”.
Alleging that targets and promises mean nothing to this government, he said: “There are other numbers which are disconcerting: the lesson to be drawn is that the government is not spending what was promised on key schemes: On agriculture and allied activities, only Rs 76,279 crore was spent against the promised Rs 83,521 crore. On PM Kisan Yojna, Rs 60,000 crore was spent against Rs 68,000 crore. On education, Rs 99,881 crore against Rs 104,278 crore. On health, Rs 46,502 crore against Rs 51,780 crore. On social welfare, Rs 46,502 crore against Rs 51,780.”
He also said no taxes have been reduced except for the small number who have opted for the new tax regime.
“No indirect taxes have been reduced. There is no cut in the cruel and irrational GST rates. There is no reduction in the prices of petrol, diesel, cement, fertilisers etc. There is no cut in the numerous surcharges and cesses which are, anyway, not shared with the state governments. Who has benefited by this budget? Certainly, not the poor. Not the youth looking desperately for jobs. Not those who have been laid off. Not the bulk of the taxpayers. Not the homemaker. Not the thinking Indians who are shocked by the growing inequality, the rise of the number of billionaires and the wealth being accumulated in the hands of the 1 per cent of the population.”
Pointing to the desperate attempts to help the GIFT City in Gujarat, he said" “This much is clear: The government is determined to push the fortunes of GIFT city, Ahmedabad, at the cost of other commercial and financial centres. The government is also determined to push the new tax regime for which there are few takers for a variety of reasons. Besides, making the new tax regime the default option is grossly unfair and will rob the ordinary taxpayer of the meagre social security that he may get under the old tax regime.”