Published On: Fri, Feb 12th, 2021

Sitharaman’s dig at Chidambaram: Budget transparent; doubtful under UPA

New Delhi: Brushing aside allegations of non-transparency in budgetary numbers, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said that the Modi government’s Budget was “clear and transparent”, while indicating that numbers were doubtful during the UPA rule.

A false narrative is created to accuse saying that this Government works only for cronies

Her statement came after Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that the major numbers in this year’s Budget were “suspect”.

In her reply to the debate on the Union Budget 2021-22, Sitharaman said: “What you get as Budget is what you get in it. No pushing anything under the carpet…”

She highlighted instances in the 2007-08 Budget, saying those numbers were “suspect”.

“I will give three concrete proofs of how accounts were suspect. I can give you clear proof of how data became suspect at times, which did not occur under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” she said, alluding to the UPA rule.

Sitharaman suggested that 60 per cent jump in 2007-08 capex numbers also included Rs 40,000 crore financially neutral deal involving the RBI and SBI.

She said that if the Rs 40,000 crore is removed, the actual capex growth that year would come to around 7 per cent. She stressed that 34.5 per cent growth in capex this year is the highest-ever.

The Finance Minister also attacked the opposition over its claims that the Centre works for the benefit of ‘crony capitalists’.

She lashed out at the Congress when she said the government schemes are meant only to benefit the poor and not meant for “some Damaad” (son-in-law in clear reference to Robert Vadra).

She was referring to Vadra, who is the son-in-law of Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi, and who has often been targeted by the BJP for his alleged land dealings.

Although she did not take any name but the Finance Minister’s jibe clearly agitated the Congress leaders even as she continued with her volleys at the opposition benches.

Outlining several schemes including MGNREGA scheme and PMAY among others, she said that all these government initiatives were aimed at the poor rather than the rich.

“A false narrative is being created,” she said over accusations that the government was only for the rich and crony capitalists.

She said: “The digital transaction through UPI till January 2020 was over 3.6 lakh crore. UPI is used by who? — The rich? — No.

“Middle class, smaller traders. Who are these people then? Is Government creating UPI, facilitating digital transactions to benefit rich cronies, Some damaads? No.”

The Congress objected to these charges but Sitharaman went on to target the Congress and said: “Loans sanctioned under Mudra Yojana — more than Rs 27,000 crores. Who takes Mudra Yojana? Damaads?

Attacking the opposition, she said it has got into the habit for some “to constantly level allegation, in spite of what we are doing for the poor and the steps taken for helping the poor and the needy of this country.

“A false narrative is created to accuse saying that this Government works only for cronies.”

The Finance Minister said that 800 million people were provided free foodgrains; free cooking gas provided for 80 million people and cash was directly given to 400 million people, farmers, women, specially-abled and the poor and needy.

Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday had launched an attack on the Union government and had alleged that the Modi government ignored the poor, unemployed and the MSME sector in the Budget proposals for 2021-22.

“The most deserving were left to their fate — the poor, farmers, migrant workers, MSME sector, middle class, and the unemployed,” he said while speaking on the Budget in the Rajya Sabha.

He said that the Congress “rejected” the Budget since there was nothing in it for the poor. Everybody expected it but cash transfers to the poor was not done, he added.

Chidambaram said that there was no mention of the defence sector in the Budget either, and the numbers predicted therein were not correct.

“The Union Finance Minister did not mention defence in her speech, which is unprecedented. The budgetary allocation for defence in 2021-22 is Rs 3,47,088 crore as against Revised Estimates of Rs 343,822 crore in the current year, an increase of just Rs 3,266 crore,” the former Union Minister added.

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