Modi hails budget, Oppn dubs its sops 'jumla'

Leaders of the BJP-led ruling alliance lavished praise on the Union Budget with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying it benefits every section of society and will boost growth but the Opposition scorned its populist push, calling it the saffron party's poll manifesto and election 'jumla'.

With some Union ministers hailing the budget as a "surgical strike" on the Opposition, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi mocked their show of euphoria, saying a surgical strike will happen on Modi and his government on issues like the Rafale deal, jobs and demonetisation during the general election.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram mocked the budget as an account for votes and not a vote on account as it should have been.

The NDA leaders expressed hope that the budget's sops for the middle class, farmers and small industries will boost their electoral prospects and their optimism was visible in their praise for these.

BJP chief Amit Shah said the interim budget "benefits" all sections of the society and asserted that it has underscored the Modi government's dedication to the aspirations of the country's youth, farmers and the poor.

He highlighted the increase in income tax exemption to Rs 5 lakh, a move aimed at wooing the salaried middle class, and annual payout of Rs 6,000 to farmers to drive home his point.

Modi said over 12 crore farmers, three crore middle-class families and 30-40 crore workers employed in unorganised sector will benefit from the budget which, he asserted, is merely a "trailer" of what will guide India towards prosperity after the elections, expected in April-May.

This budget will boost the efforts of 130 crore citizens in realising the goal of a new India, he said.

Slamming the government for "trampling" on time-honoured conventions by presenting a "full-fledged budget" and not an interim one, former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram accused it of violating the Constitution.

"My one line comment on the budget is that it was not a Vote on Account but an account for votes. It was a full-fledged budget accompanied by an election campaign speech," he told reporters.

The government has said that it was an interim budget.

In his reaction, Gandhi also accused the government of destroying the lives of farmers over the past five years, and said the budget's announcement of "Rs 17 a day" for them was an insult to everything they stand and work for.

CPI-M leader Mohammad Salim called the announcements an election "jumla" (rhetoric), a sentiment echoed by former BJP ally and RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha, now in the Congress-led alliance, who added that the interim budget will be the "antim" (last) budget of this government.

"The budget is anti-youth and misleading for all sections of society, including farmers. This is nothing by an election jumla," Kushwaha said.

The budget's proposals have assumed significance as they come weeks ahead of the announcement of the Lok Sabha poll schedule.

BJP ally and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan hailed the budget as "second surgical strike", saying the first- a reference to the Army's attack on terror launch pads across the border- used bullets against the country's external enemies while this will use ballots to decimate the ruling NDA's rivals in the general election.

He claimed that Modi will come back to power with the NDA winning more than 400 seats in the coming polls.

RSS affiliates also praised the budget, terming it pro-people and a step towards ensuring universal basic income.

"Finance Minister Piyush Goyal has enumerated many pro-workers measures already in place. Even though this is an interim budget, let the pro-worker vision form a part of the future road map for development," Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh president Saji Narayanan said in a statement.

Echoing similar sentiments, Sangh-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch co-convener Ashwani Mahajan said this budget has something for everyone, be it farmers, middle class or workers. "It is actually a pro-people budget," he said.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh described the budget as "historic" and said it will accelerate the process of creating a 'new India' which is confident, self-reliant, developed and prosperous.

Union minister Arun Jaitley, who had been holding the finance portfolio but had to relinquish the office for health reasons, said the government's decision to exempt income of up to Rs 5 lakh from tax will benefit the "great Indian middle class".

The significant announcement made by Goyal will strengthen the purchasing power of the middle class which holds the key for India's future, he said. He is currently in the US for treatment.

The ruling TRS in Telangana claimed the cash dole for farmers was an "imitation" of a scheme launched by it but added that politics had taken precedence over economics in the budget.

BSP president Mayawati called the budget 'jumlebazi' that did not address the ground realties.

Samajwadi Party national president Akhilesh Yadav said in a budget of one year, the BJP has given lies of "next 10 years".

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a key opposition leader, said Friday the interim budget for 2019-20 had absolutely no value as the term of the NDA government would end soon.

"Who will implement this?" the Trinamool Congress president asked.

AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the budget will prove to be "final jumla" of the government.

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