Budget will empower downtrodden: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Hailing the Union Budget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said it is "one of hope" that will boost India's development in the 21st century and empower the downtrodden, but the Congress slammed it as "insipid" and accused the government of not paying any heed to common citizens or economists before preparing it.

While the Modi government's first budget after it assumed power for a second term had the ruling BJP-led NDA members heaping praise on it, opposition parties, including the left parties remained unimpressed.

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Echoing Modi's sentiments, BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah also dubbed the budget as "futuristic", and said it reflected the Prime Minister's vision where farmers prosper, the poor leads a life of dignity, the middle class gets its due and Indian enterprise is boosted.

"The budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is a futuristic one. It provides a coherent road map for sectors that will drive growth and innovation among our citizens. The emphasis on clean energy and cashless transactions are also steps in the right direction," Shah tweeted.

In his first reaction on the budget, beamed by the state broadcaster, Modi described the budget as a document for building a "new India" and said it will strengthen the poor and create a better future for the youth.

Asserting that the budget has taken all round steps for the empowerment of poor, farmers, Dalits, oppressed and the underprivileged sections of the society, he said they will be "powerhouse" of the country in the coming five years and boost its development.

The budget is one of hope and it is a budget that will boost India's development in the 21st century, Modi said and added that "the country will get the energy to fulfil the dream of a USD 5 trillion economy from these empowered sections."

However, the opposition parties gave a very cold response to the document with the Congress criticising it, and its senior leader P Chidambaram accusing the Modi government of treating India as one big state.

The Centre has taken upon itself to do things that are the right and duty of state governments, the former finance minister said.

"This is not cooperative federalism. It is an unequal partnership imposed by the Centre upon state governments. Altogether, the budget has been prepared without listening to the voices of either ordinary citizens or knowledgeable economists," he said.

The budget is insipid and has given no meaningful relief to any section of people, he added.

The Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury pooh-poohed the budgetary provisions, calling them as "old wine in a new bottle".

Hitting out at the government, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury alleged that it was a "fraudulent" budget.

"The FM has used February 2019 interim budget's revised estimates as the revised estimates for the whole year 2018-19! Expenditure cuts in the last quarter in the run up to polls are not accounted for! So a rosy picture of the economy is based on jugglery," he said.

The Aam Aadmi Party termed it as disappointing and claimed that it will hit small traders, women and the poor hard.

Opposition leader Sharad Yadav said the budget had nothing good to offer to any section of society.

BJP working president J P Nadda welcomed the budget presented by Sitharaman-- first full-time woman finance minister. There is something in the budget for every section of the society, Nadda said.

The BJP ally Shiv Sena called the budget "all-inclusive and balanced".

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi praised it, saying it is "forward looking and reformist" and asserted that it will help the government provide housing, electricity and LPG connection to all by 2022.

The government in the budget hiked petrol and diesel prices, raised import duty on dozens of items and increased tax on the super-rich as it sought to spur growth through higher spending and sops for startups, housing and corporates.

Presenting the Budget for 2019-20, Sitharaman also announced further opening up of aviation, insurance and media sectors to foreign investment while throwing a lifeline to the struggling shadow banks (NBFCs) to boost investment and lending in the economy.

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