Manmohan and Chidambaram claim Jaitley’s Budget bereft of big ideas
Slamming the Annual Budget presented on Monday by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the Congress said it was bereft of new ideas. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government had unveiled a “mixed bag Budget” with no big ideas. He also said the government’s announcement that farmers’ income would be doubled in the next five years was an “impossible idea”.
“It is a nit-picking budget. There is no big idea except one that was mentioned on Sunday by the Prime Minister himself, that the government plans to double the farmers’ income in the next five years. I think it is an impossible dream and there is no inclination, no way of telling the country how it will be achieved because it implies a 14 per cent annual increase in the farm income in each of the five years,” said Singh.
Toeing the same line, former Finance minister P Chidambaram said: “the one big takeaway from this Budget was that there is no big idea.”
Addressing the media in the evening, he said, “The crucial point in agriculture is the price. Last year, I think farmers were cheated. In many cases, there was a very poor increase in MSP (Minimum Support Price). In some cases, there was zero increase in MSP.”
He criticised Jaitley for “no new idea” in the government’s budget and alleged that the government has been dragging its feet on the crucial but stalled Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation.
“GST has only been delayed because the government is unwilling to step away from its stubborn position,” Chidambaram said. Asked if he saw the budget political in its essence, the Congress leader said the government passed two “forgettable budgets earlier”. “Clearly the (new) budget was expected to be political and I am not surprised.”
“Immediately, it is the price signal that will enthuse farmers. Farmers are not getting fair and remunerative prices,” the senior Congress leader said.
Chidambaram played down suggestions that the Budget was pro-poor. “Pro-poor and all are catch-all phrases. I want to know who is happy. Tax payers? Market? The middle class? I don’t think so.”