Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said that the Union Budget presented by the Narendra Modi government has betrayed the hopes of a vast majority of people. The Budget, said Chidambaram, shows how far removed the government is from the people and their concerns about life, livelihood and the growing inequality between the rich and the poor.
Addressing a press conference at the Congress headquarters in Delhi, Chidambaram said FM Sitharaman has skipped mention of the words unemployment, poverty, inequality or equity in her Budget speech.
“Let me begin by pointing out, with regret, that the FM has not mentioned the words unemployment, poverty, inequality or equity anywhere in her speech. Mercifully, she 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,” Chidambaram said.
The former FM further stressed that 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, fertilizers etc. There is no cut in the numerous surcharges and cesses which are, anyway, not shared with the state governments,” Chidambaram said.
“Who has benefited from 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. Certainly, not you,” he said.
Chidambaram alleged that 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,” he said, adding that making the new tax regime the default option was grossly unfair and “will rob the ordinary taxpayer of the meagre social security that he may get under the old tax regime”.
This is a “callous” Budget that has betrayed the hopes of the vast majority of the people, he added.
Budget 2023-24 is the last full budget under the watch of the Narendra Modi government ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. In a televised address after the Budget was tabled in the Lok Sabha, PM Modi congratulated FM Sitharaman and said the Budget will fulfill the dreams of India’s aspirational society including poor people, middle-class people, and farmers.
“First budget of Amrit Kaal will build a strong foundation for building a developed India. This budget will fulfill dreams of aspirational society including poor people, middle-class people, and farmers,” he said.