Kerala CM presents budget amid protests by Opposition

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Friday presented a populist state Budget for 2016-17, the last in the Congress-led government’s tenure, with an eye on the upcoming Assembly election, amid protests by Opposition legislators.

Members of the Opposition Left Democratic Front raised slogans against the government over bar bribery and solar scam charges even as the chief minister continued his budget speech.

In his introduction to what critics called a “manifesto-budget”, Chandy also made a political statement, thanking people for backing the government in the face of crisis
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“There were attempts from some centres to destabilise this democratically elected government… as a government with a thin majority, we have rewritten history by executing our action plan for the people while surviving all political storms,” he said.

Chandy is the first chief minister in 29 years to present the budget in the House. He doubled as Finance minister following resignation of K M Mani last year, over charges in the bar bribery scam. Chandy’s two hours-and-54-minutes speech on Friday was also the longest budget speech in the history of the House.

Chandy also criticised the Centre over its “directionless” development policies in the wake of scrapping of the Planning Commission. “Niti Ayog which came into being as a replacement is clueless on its responsibilities.

 The ministers have been expressing individual views but there is no clarity on development goals,” Chandy said.

The chief minister pitched the budget as a mix of implemented programmes and a proposed plan of action, sending out a message of confidence barely two months ahead of a change in government.

 He stressed on the government’s focus on development and listed Vizhinjam International Seaport, Kochi Metro, Kannur International Airport and Kochi Smart City among its achievements.

The budget featured a slew of welfare measures — among them are free rice for BPL/AAY families, Rs 500 crore earmarked for the government’s fixed-price scheme to ensure rubber farmers Rs 150 per kg and insurance cover for about 30 lakh beneficiaries of social security pension schemes.

 The government also proposes to work along with banks on a programme for waivers and discount on educational loans availed by students from economically backward families.
DH News Service

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