Pune: Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan claimed on Wednesday that pre-Budget meetings are being held at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) but Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is not being invited. If the prime minister was not happy with Sitharaman's performance, he should ask her to resign, the former Maharashtra chief minister said.
The Union Budget is scheduled to be presented on 1 February.
"Traditionally, pre-Budget meetings are conducted by the finance ministry. The entire Budget process happens at the finance ministry, under the finance minister's guidance," Chavan, who was a minister in the PMO during the UPA years, said.
File image of former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost
He claimed that Modi held 13 pre-Budget consultation meetings which were attended by top industrialists. "Surprisingly, to none of these meetings Sitharaman was invited," he alleged. "This (keeping Sitharaman out of the loop) will demoralise the entire finance ministry staff as this is unprecedented," Chavan added.
It seemed that the prime minister had taken control of the finance ministry, he further said. "Even if the Budget speech will be made by the finance minister, it (the speech) would of the prime minister," he said.
"The growth rate is at its lowest right now and since it is at its lowest, the per capita income will not improve and in such a condition, the target of becoming $5 trillion economy is not possible (to achieve)," the Congress leader said.
Referring to the BJP-led Union government's promise to bring back the black money stashed abroad, Chavan said no action was taken against the people whose names cropped up in the Panama Papers investigations.
"A country like Pakistan took action against former PM Nawaz Sharif (when his name came up)," he added.
Chavan, meanwhile, stood by his claim that the Shiv Sena had approached the Congress with a proposal to form the government in 2014. The Sena, earlier in the day, refuted the claim.
Chavan said he stood by his statement but refused to divulge the names of the Sena leaders who had allegedly made overtures to the Congress.
On the Sena-led Maharashtra government's decision to allow restaurants and malls in certain areas of Mumbai to remain open at night, Chavan said it was being implemented on an experimental basis.
"If it succeeds in Mumbai, we can think of emulating it it Pune," he said.