Union Budget reflects Centre's efforts to sideline non-BJP ruled states: Punjab CM

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Chandigarh, Feb 1 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday flayed the Union Budget, saying it reflects the Centre’s “persistent efforts to sideline” non-BJP ruled states.

The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party too dubbed the Budget as “anti-common man”, accusing the Centre of selling off national assets to corporates.

The reactions came hours after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget for 2021-22.

The Punjab CM claimed that the Budget was “reflective of the BJP-led central government's apathy towards the common man, the middle class and farmers”.

He criticised the Centre for the “stepmotherly” treatment meted out to Punjab and other northern states, claiming that it was 'designed' to cater to the poll-bound states of West Bengal and south India with a massive infrastructure development allocation for these regions.

“The Budget also manifests the central government's persistent efforts to sideline non-BJP states like ours, as well as its anti-federal mindset,” said the CM, pointing to the gap between the fiscal deficit targets fixed for the Union government and states.

The Punjab CM claimed the concerns of the defence sector have not been adequately addressed despite a growing border threat from China and Pakistan.

Trashing the Centre's claim that the Health sector allotment has been increased by 35 per cent, the CM said the fact is the numbers have been “fudged” to project a hike by including the Rs 35,000 crore allocated for COVID-19 vaccine and the amount set aside for sanitation under the health head.

Actually, the budget for health is down by 10 per cent, he added.

“And did the Finance Minister not find it necessary to even mention constitutional guarantee for the MSP, one of the key demands of the farmers battling cold and lathis on the doorstep of New Delhi for over two months now,” the Punjab CM asked.

Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal too said the Budget was silent on agricultural unrest, unemployment and problems of the middle class.

In a series of tweets, Badal claimed that the “entire north India” was ignored in the Budget.

“The Budget is silent on agricultural unrest. It buries its head in the sand, and rather than help solve the crisis that the NDA created. What about MSP,' Badal asked in a tweet.

The Punjab minister claimed that instead of doubling income from agriculture, it will reduce the earnings by half.

Badal further said that the budget was “silent” on unemployment caused by the NDA government's coronavirus 'mismanagement'.

He claimed that the Budget was “silent on the travails of the middle class.” “Middle classes get nothing except increased costs of petrol and diesel. Hopes of the middle classes of relief after suffering from a once-in-a-century pandemic have been shattered,” he said in another tweet.

“Entire north India has been ignored. Why? Because it is not going to the polls! States that are going to polls are given sops. Just like the maximum Padma awardees came from five states going to polls,” Badal claimed.

Badal further alleged, “The Budget seeks to sell India's precious assets.' Later in the day he told the media said they expected more allocation for agriculture, banking, health and defence sectors. As far agriculture is concerned, Badal said there was only two per cent hike in the allocation for the sector.

Meanwhile, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party said the Budget was against the common man.

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal accused the the BJP-led Union government of “selling off national assets to its corporate friends”.

The Budget had also punished Punjabis for supporting the peaceful agitation against the Centre’s agricultural laws, he said in a statement here.

Badal said at a time when there is a need to increase direct benefit transfers to farmers and under privileged sections, the Centre is focusing on disinvesting public sector undertakings (PSUs).

“This will give a further boost to crony capitalism as corporate players are set to buy these PSUs at cheap prices,' the SAD chief added.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) termed the budget as “anti-people and anti-Punjab”.

AAP leader and the Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, Harpal Singh Cheema, said the provisions in the Budget will increase people’s problems and benefit only friends of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Cheema said the Budget made a provision of levying cess on diesel and petrol, which are used by farmers.

He said there was nothing for employment generation in it and Punjab was completely ignored.

“It is clear that the Centre is discriminating against Punjab,” he alleged.

Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh hailed the Budget as a “big step towards reassuring farmers” that the Modi government will continue to give top priority to their welfare.

A remarkable increase in the disbursement of procurement money to farmers for wheat and paddy crops testified that the Centre would continue to strengthen the MSP system, he said in a statement. PTI CHS VSD RDK RDK