Deputy leader of opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) V.K. Malhotra kicked off the debate on general Budget in the Lok Sabha with a scathing criticism of the Centre’s economic policy.
He set the tone for a session of brickbats far more than bouquets, with P. Karunakaran of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Suresh Prabhu of the Shiv Sena dismissing the Budget as well. Only K.S. Siva Rao and S.K. Kharventhan of the Congress were left to bat for finance minister P. Chidambaram in a House largely empty of ruling Congress party members.
Malhotra said the Budget had failed to address three basic contemporary economic issues: inflation, plight of farmers and unemployment. He said the prices had risen mainly due to the futures trade in commodities and delay in procurement by the government.
Raising the issue of suicides by farmers, Malhotra said the Budget offered nothing to the debt-ridden farmer, except the prospect of increasing debt. He said precisely during the one-and-a-half hour period on 28 February, when Chidambaram read out his Budget speech in Parliament, four farmers committed suicide .
“The finance minister, in his speech, spelt out just one good news: cheaper food for cats and dogs,” said Malhotra.
Congress’ Rao, however, argued that Malhotra’s criticism had failed to offer any concrete alternative measure.
The debate on the Budget will continue for another three days, concluding with the finance minister’s reply on 15 March.
PTI contributed to this story.