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Fireworks in Rajya Sabha over Finance Bill debate; Parliaments in recess till March 02, 2020

The acrimony in the Rajya sabha during the discussion on the Finance Bill continued for the second day today even as Parliament adjourned for a recess till March 2.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram's 'onion and avacado' remarks earlier this month seemed to have particularly stung Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who hit back during her reply to Budget 20-21. "I want to go back to talking about the points that former finance minister [P.Chidambaram] has spoken about. There was more sarcasm than content in his speech. When all of us were equally worried about onions, none of us had avocado in our mind. A lot of assumptions were put out." She also attacked Chidambaram for his 'incompetent doctors' attending to the economy remark, saying there was nothing to learn from the people who gave the mountain of NPAs along with twin balance sheet crisis. "We are certainly predisposed about not repeating mistakes of UPA."

But the opposition was unrelenting. When Anand Sharma asks the FM to clarify about revenue deficit that leaves only a little for capital expenditure out of the borrowed money, the Chair asks the FM to respond, to which Ms. Sitharaman says, "No response. I have said all that have to be stated." To this Chidambaram again claimed that the Union Minister was not familiar with the numbers that were presented by her only 10 days ago. "I was shocked that she declined to answer Anand Sharma. She seemed perplexed on his question," said Mr Chidambaram.

The BJP has issued a three line whip asking its members to be present in the Rajya Sabha for the discussion on the Finance Bill.

Opposition members said the Budget has not lived up to expectations and fails to address challenge faced by the Indian economy.

They also attacked the Union government for the "step-motherly" treatment to states and privatisation of public sector units including Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC).

Continuing the debate on the Budget, TRS member K Keshava Rao said the Budget has set up an ambitious disinvestment target and would be difficult to achieve. He said the dual tax system proposed in the Budget would benefit chartered accountants.

The TRS member also raised the issue of "step motherly" treatment being given to States in devolution of taxes. Binoy Vishwam (CPI) said the economy is already on "ventilator" and the Budget does not provide any solution to it.

He accused the government of selling off national wealth to select private companies. Vishwam said even the BJP-RSS affiliated trade union BMS is opposing the stake sales in the LIC. He also rued that allocation for MNREGA has been lowered by around Rs 10,000 crore.

BSP member Veer Singh said the Centre has "ruined" the Indian economy and unemployment is at a 45 year-high. He charged the BJP-ruled central government has failed to fulfil its promises. He alleged the Centre is ending reservations for SC/STs and OBCs. Singh asked the government to provide reservation to SC/STs and OBCs in private sector if it is serious and committed to welfare of backward classes.

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