Opposition says Union Budget 2018 ‘defeatist, super flop’; BJP, allies praise it

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on February 1 presented the National Democratic Alliance government’s last full budget before the general elections next year, drawing praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and criticism from several opposition parties.
PM Modi said the budget was “development-friendly” and that it will strengthen the vision of a “new India”.
Several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and Chief Ministers of the states ruled by the saffron outfit emphasized that the sops announced for farmers will bring in development in the rural and the agriculture sectors.
Jaitley among other things spoke of massive spending on rural infrastructure to win over voters in the rural areas of the country, where two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people live.
Congress leader P. Chidambaram, however, said Jaitley had failed the fiscal consolidation test that would have “serious consequences” on the economic growth rate.
The former finance minister tweeted that fiscal deficit limit of 3.2 percent in 2017-18 had been breached and was now estimated at 3.5 percent.
“For 2018-19 also against 3 percent, he (Jaitley) has fixed fiscal deficit at 3.3 percent,” Chidambaram said, adding the proposals should have been “bold and radical”.
“It is a defeatist budget. I think they have thrown in the towel. It is a budget of a government which has conceded that it has failed to address key issues in the economy… Unfortunately, the budget proposals are a big letdown,” Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi.
All-around praise
Modi congratulated Jaitley and his team and said farmers, Dalits and tribal communities will gain from the budget. The budget, he emphasized, will create new opportunities for rural India.
Discussing various schemes of his government, including the construction of toilets and initiatives in the areas of housing, power and health, the PM emphasized that the budget devotes attention to all sectors, ranging from agriculture to infrastructure.
The budget is “farmer friendly, common citizen friendly, business environment-friendly” and will add to “ease of living” and “ease of doing business”, Modi added.
The government will soon announce concrete steps to address non-performing assets (NPA) and ‘stress account’ issues for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector, the Prime Minister said.
The BJP’s chief Amit Shah said the budget gives new wings to aspirations of the poor as he cited measures aimed at giving a boost to farmers, infrastructure, rural sector and small and medium enterprises.
Shah posted a number of tweets as Jaitley made announcements while presenting his fifth budget to highlight their significance, especially for the poor and weaker sections.
Shah said the “record allocation” to the rural sector and agriculture will lead to an unprecedented rural development and agricultural growth and asserted that consistent focus on rural development and agriculture has been a hallmark of the government.
He praised Prime Minister Modi and Jaitley for the “historic” step of raising minimum support price to 1.5 times the costs incurred by farmers and said it showed the government’s commitment to farmers and doubling their income.
Janata Dal (United) chief and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar also welcomed the proposal of increasing the minimum support price of crops to 1.5 times of the input cost.
He also congratulated Jaitley for announcing the “grand initiative” of National Health Protection Scheme under which Rs. 5 lakh cover will be provided a year to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families in the country.
“This grand initiative will be covering 10 crore families that means almost 50 crore people will get coverage up to Rs. 5 lakh rupees every year,” Nitish Kumar, whose party is a part of the NDA, said.
Focus on everyone
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath welcomed the budget, saying it will give a new impetus to the economy.
Adityanath expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Modi and congratulated Jaitley in a hurriedly convened press conference, saying the budget was made keeping the interests of the common man, poor, farmers and senior citizens etc in mind.
He said that out of the 24 new medical colleges eight would be opened in Uttar Pradesh. He added that there were provisions to build infrastructure and relief had been given to the salaried class as well.
Adityanath’s counterpart in Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis hailed the budget, saying it was a big boost to sectors like infrastructure, economy, health care and job creation. He called the decision to increase farmers’ income as “historical”.
“With an aim to put more money in farmers’ pockets, the Centre has decided to increase the minimum support price (MSP) of all crops by at least 1.5 times of the production cost,” he noted.
Jaitley, while presenting the budget proposals, said the government wanted to help farmers produce more and realize higher prices. He said the crop production is at a record high and the government is committed to giving 50 percent more than the cost of crop production to farmers.
The government also proposed to set the MSP at one-and-a-half times the cost of production for Kharif crops.
Fadnavis also welcomed the target of Rs. 3 lakh crore for loan disbursement under the Mudra scheme in the next fiscal.
“The Mudra loan has been given to more than 10 crore people, of whom seven crore are women and five crore are from the scheduled castes and other backward classes,” he said.
Fadnavis also welcomed the government’s initiative to launch the National Health Protection scheme to cover 10 crore poor and vulnerable people.
“It is another history created by the Modi government. This is the world’s largest health care initiative. Under the new scheme, 50 crore people would get free health care benefits up to Rs. 5 lakh per family for treatment,” he said.
Fadnavis also said the provision of Rs. 40,000 crore for enhancing the transportation in Mumbai with the expansion of suburban railway system and new airports was a big boost to the infrastructure sector and the economy.
Madhya Pradesh’s chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also praised Modi and Jaitley for presenting a “visionary and futuristic budget”, which will provide an “impetus to the creation of a New India”.
“It touches the chord of each and every section of society – farmers, salaried taxpayers, senior citizens and the poor,” he said.
‘Super flop, big bluff show’
Opposition leaders such as Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Akhilesh Yadav, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’ Brien said the budget was “disappointing”.
“The budget brings disappointment to poor-farmer-laborer; brings exasperation to unemployed youth; and is a slap in the face of traders, women, salaried class, and the general public,” Yadav tweeted.
“This is the destructive budget of the arrogant government that has ignored troubles of people. Even in its last budget, the BJP showed that it favors only the rich. Now, people will answer back,” the SP leader added.
Kejriwal, also the Aam Aadmi Party leader, said Centre’s “step-motherly treatment” to the Capital was evident in the budget.
“I had expected some financial assistance to important infrastructure projects for national capital. Am disappointed that Centre continues its step-motherly treatment to Delhi,” he tweeted.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it’s a negative, super flop and big bluff budget: “It’s a directionless and anti-people budget. There is no change in tax rates. Moreover, there is an additional burden on people. What will people eat. I am deeply disappointed,” she said.
Brien, leader of Trinamool Congress in the Rajya Sabha, criticized the budget as “super flop show, big bluff show” and pointed out that the Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal already follows what Jaitley proposed to do in 2018-19 on February 1.
“No mechanism to implement announcements. All sections are displeased, disappointed and angry: the unemployed, the farmers, the youth, SC/ST, majority, minority. People have lost their trust in this government. People have lost their faith. After today’s budget their credibility is now zero,” O’ Brien said in a statement.
“Bengal gives free treatment and medicines. Our schemes on health, education and the emancipation of girls have all been implemented. Bengal has already doubled farmer income in 5 years. Now GoI is again talking about doubling farmer income. Will agriculture grow at 12 percent per annum? They are again bluffing,” he added.

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