Interim budget missing accountability, shows govt is ‘of the rich, for the rich’: Cong

PTI, Feb 1, 2024, 7:43 PM IST

The Congress said the interim budget presented by the government on Thursday is missing on both accountability and vision and questioned how many of the promises made in the last ten years have been fulfilled.

The opposition party alleged that the ruling NDA’s approach to the economy and governance is biased in favour of the rich and the budget neither talks about the promised two crore jobs every year nor about taming inflation or doubling farmers’ incomes.

”It is a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich,” former finance minister P Chidambaram alleged.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the finance minister has said that they will present a white paper on the previous government.

”In this context, we ask the Modi Government, how many of the promises made by the government in the last 10 years have been fulfilled,” he said, adding only big dreams have been shown to people, schemes relaunched by changing names, but what happened to old promises has not been told.

”How will the new dreams being shown get fulfilled,” he asked.

”Both accountability and vision are missing from this interim Budget. We expected some new schemes to ease the suffering of the poor and middle class from this Interim Budget 2024,” the Congress chief said.

Chidambaram said at a press conference that the finance minister spoke about GDP but didn’t address per capita income. She barely referred to inflation, and she failed to mention that food inflation is currently at 7.7 per cent, he said.

The senior Congres leader said the fastest growing economy is not a badge of honour.

”China’s GDP is five and a half times more than our GDP. If they grow at, say, three per cent in order to match their annual growth, we have to grow at 15 per cent … So don’t talk about GDP growth. Talk about the per capita income growth,” he said The former finance minister said in the last three days, there has been a ”tiresome repetition of boastful claims” by the government on how India has surged forward in the last 5-10 years.

”Before the President’s address, the Ministry of Finance put out a 63-page mini Economic Survey and, today, the Finance Minister (FM) gave a speech on the Interim Budget. Thus, the same numbers have been trotted out thrice in three days. Every number has been challenged by economists and domain experts,” he said.

Chidambaram said Sitharaman spoke about minimum government and maximum governance, but the ‘minimum’ government policy, in reality, has ”undermined federalism, starved state governments of funds and virtually reduced the third tier of governance – panchayats and municipalities – to ciphers”.

”The overwhelming majority of the people are dependent on the third tier of government for their services but that tier has been virtually deprived of human and financial resources. Federalism has been considerably weakened by the central government taking over – rather usurping – the executive and legislative powers of state governments,” he alleged.

”The fundamental flaw in the NDA’s approach to the economy and governance is that it is biased in favour of the rich. It is a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich,” he alleged.

The government is ”either ignorant or callous to the fact” that the top 10 per cent owns 60 per cent of the nation’s wealth and earns 57 per cent of the national income and that income inequality has widened significantly in the last 10 years, he said.

”This outcome is because of the lower growth rate during the 10 years (2014 – 2024) as against the UPA period (2004 – 2014).

”In the last year of UPA, 2013-14, we left a GDP growth rate of 6.4 per cent and an average growth rate of 7.5 per cent. In the NDA period the average growth rate has been less than 6 per cent,” he said.

”We maintain our charge that this government is a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. This govt has practically forgotten the bottom 50 per cent of the people,” he alleged, adding ”we will take this message to the people”.

He expressed the hope that the people of India would recognise that the economic situation is ”worse because of the 10 years of NDA government”.

Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said, ”The poor did not get anything other than false promises in the last (interim) budget by the Modi government. This (central) government is of the rich, for the rich and run by the rich as this is what has been displayed in this budget.” However, BJP leaders lauded the budget, saying it has a host of measures focusing on realising the resolve of a developed India.

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