Initial reactions to the Interim Budget 2024 presented by Union Minister For Finance Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament on February 1 (Thursday) signal a limited political concurrence between Kerala’s ruling front and the Opposition that the Centre’s financial plan held no promise for the country’s youth, farmers or women.
Both the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition and the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) leaders opined that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre’s interim fiscal plan rendered crores of people, at the lowest income decile, to the bottom of the pile.
They perceived the Budget disproportionately favoured corporate monopolies and held little promise for women, farmers, unemployed youth, potential investors and marginalised sections of society.
For one, Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Shashi Tharoor told reporters in New Delhi that the Interim Budget was silent on unemployment, slow economic growth, plummeting GDP and declining female participation in the social mainstream.
“The Finance Minister’s speech is couched in generalities, without substance and void of any valid proposal to address the country’s myriad problems. It is an unvarnished exercise in public relations rhetoric with an eye on the impending Parliament elections. The Minister’s presumption that the economy grew and ordinary people reaped the dividends did not match facts,” said Mr. Tharoor.
LDF convener E.P. Jayarajan echoed a similar sentiment. He said the Interim Budget rang hollow. It has, as usual, nothing for Kerala or people with low incomes. The Finance Minister merely regurgitated the tall claims made by the Central government in previous Budgets.
“The Interim Budget sought to conjure up the mirage that something great is around the corner for the polity to hoodwink the electorate. The Interim Budget has disappointed the youth, farmers, women, the cash crop sector and potential investors. The BJP senses that the people will show it the door in the next Lok Sabha polls. Hence, they presented a perfunctory Interim Budget with no solid proposal. The Finance Minister’s speech was a wasted exercise in tokenism,” said Mr. Jayarajan.
Kerala should be happy: V. Muraleedharan
Predictably, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan struck a different tone.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Mr. Muraleedharan said the Interim Budget laid the path for a developed India by 2047. It has laid out the country’s welfare, development and economic growth trajectory.
“Kerala should be happy that the Centre has decided to continue to extend interest-free loans for the infrastructure development of States. The Interim Budget focuses on maintaining the pace of basic infrastructure development in States,” said Mr. Muraleedharan.
He said Kerala would benefit most from the Centre’s interest-free largesses to States for tourism development.
Moreover, Ms. Sitharaman has announced free solar panels for 1 crore houses to help working-class families save on power bills. The Interim Budget focusses on empowering women, skill development for unemployed youth to meet the global job market demands, and tax relief for low and middle-income groups.
Mr. Muraleedharan expressed confidence that the Central government’s vision for the country would unfold when the third consecutive Narendra Modi government presented the total Budget in the Lok Sabha in July.
He termed Ms. Sitharaman’s Interim Budget speech “visionary”.