New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) The Union Budget on Monday evoked contrasting responses in the political arena with the ruling BJP hailing it as a vision for an 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' and the Opposition describing it as a 'let down like never before' that was meant to 'deceive' people.
Asserting that villages and farmers are at the heart of the Union Budget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it has put a lot of emphasis on strengthening the farming sector and increasing farmers' income while making an allocation to further empower agriculture mandis.
In a televised message after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the budget, Modi said it has many provisions for the agriculture sector, including for making loans easier for farmers.
While BJP president J P Nadda lauded the budget for being 'all-inclusive', touching every section of society, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi alleged that 'forget putting cash in the hands of people, the Modi government plans to handover India's assets to his crony capitalist friends.' Sitharaman presented the budget for 2021-22 in Lok Sabha and read out the budget speech from a tablet instead of a conventional paper document as the first paperless budget since independence was presented by the government due to the COVID situation.
Ruling party leaders lauded the budget for its focus on a number of measures, including substantial allocation for healthcare sector, capital expenditure, tax exemption for senior citizens and incentives for start-ups among others.
Senior BJP leader and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said this budget is for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat and will strengthen the economy.
Underlining that drafting the budget during the coronavirus pandemic was a complicated task, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the government has given an 'all-inclusive' budget under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan commended the budget, saying the allocation of Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccines and the commitment to provide further support will help end this pandemic and expedite economic recovery.
He hailed the 'visionary leadership' of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 'prudence' of Sitharaman 'for taking us closer to Health For All'.
The Congress, however, was scathing in its criticism of the budget and claimed that it will unravel soon. The opposition party alleged that the budget had deceived the people, as it described the imposition of cess on petrol and diesel in the budget as a 'vengeful act' against the thousands of farmers who took out the tractor rally.
An agri cess of Rs 2.5 per litre on petrol and Rs 4 per litre on diesel was also slapped but this was offset by a reduction of an equivalent amount in the excise duty -- making it price neutral for consumers.
There will be no increase in petrol and diesel prices and there will be no additional burden on people, Union minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted.
The Congress also said it was a case of 'wrong diagnosis and prescription', and that Finance Minister Sitharaman could have been 'brave' by extending help to the poor, but chose to be 'timid'.
Addressing a press conference, P Chidambaram said Sitharaman 'deceived' those who were listening to her speech, especially the MPs, who had no clue that she has imposed cesses on a large number of products including petroleum and diesel -- Rs 2.50 on petrol per litre and Rs 4.00 on diesel per litre.
He said this was a 'cruel blow' to the average citizen, including farmers.
'She deceived the people of India, especially the poor, the working class, the migrants, the farmers, the industrial units that had been closed down permanently, and those who had lost their jobs, both regular and informal, and are still looking for jobs,' Chidambaram alleged.
'The budget was a let down like never before. This budget, like the previous one, will unravel sooner than you think,' he said.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh flayed the budget, saying it reflects the Centre's 'persistent efforts to sideline' non-BJP ruled states.
Left parties also hit out at the government over the budget, terming it as 'rhetoric' and stated that it only benefits the corporates.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the budget is neither for the people nor for the much publicised 'V shaped revival of the economy, but for a K-shaped -- rich becoming richer, poor poorer' while CPI MP Binoy Viswam asserted it was 'another masterstroke in rhetoric and grandstanding that has become the hallmark of this government.' Lashing out at the Centre over the budget, the Trinamool Congress said the document was 100 per cent 'visionless' and its theme was 'sell India'.
'India's first paperless budget is also a 100% visionless budget. Theme of the fake budget is Sell India!' TMC spokesperson Derek O'Brien said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee slammed the union budget as 'anti- people' aimed at deceiving the masses, and alleged the BJP talks about nationalism, but in practice, they are the ones who are selling resources of the nation to the private players.
The Shiv Sena said Maharashtra was ignored in the Union Budget while its ally Nationalist Congress Party termed the annual financial plan as disappointing amidst the coronavirus pandemic and a move towards privatisation.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the Union Budget will prove to be a milestone in upgrading India's economy and will ensure development of all sections of society.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar congratulated the Centre for coming out with a 'balanced' budget for the financial year 2021-2022 despite constraints on revenue collection in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. PTI ASK KR JTR SKC ASG PLB ASK PYK PYK