Budget aims to undercut federal polity, says Trinamool

Yechury says budget will only promote K-shaped recovery where rich will become richer and poor poorer.

The Left parties and the Trinamool Congress sharply reacted to the Union Budget, where national highway projects were announced for four election-bound States alone.

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra called this Budget a visionless and confused one which was aiming to undercut the federal polity. The only clarity the budget had was to sell government assets such as LIC.

Mr. Mitra said, “I would tell the Union government to come and learn from West Bengal. Since 2011, when we first came to power, we have constructed 88,000 km of rural roads and another 5,111 km of State roads and highways. And now you are telling us you will construct 625 km. Where were you all this while? Were you sleeping?”

He pointed out that West Bengal had been awarded by the Union government for being at the forefront of constructing rural roads.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury also slammed the government for “political opportunism.” “People cannot be fooled by this. By the time these announcements made in the budget are implemented, the elections in West Bengal and Kerala will be long over,” he told The Hindu.

Mr. Mitra also criticised the Centre for stealing from the States in the form of cess. The Union Budget had introduced a new Agriculture Infrastructure Development cess. The cess and surcharges collected by the Centre were not shared with the State governments. “Since 2014, out of the gross revenue collected by the Centre, 16% has been through cess and surcharges. This is the money that will not come to us. So there is an intent here. Cess and surcharges undermined the federal fiscal health,” Mr. Mitra said. He had earlier written to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman not to impose any more cess.

He also flagged that the Centre owed West Bengal ₹10,000 crore as part of devolution of funds to States. “West Bengal is not alone in this. It is the story of every State,” he said.

Mr. Yechury, in a tweet, said the budget would only promote a K-shaped recovery where the rich would become richer and poor poorer. “Budget projecting self reliance, promotes self subservience to corporate profits through a loot of national assets and large-scale privatisation. FDI limits in LIC and financial sector hiked for profit maximisation,” he tweeted.

Mr. Yechury pointed out that the health allocation had been reduced, MGNREGS had been cut by 42%. And while the farmers were protesting, the government, while promising MSP, had reduced allocation for price support schemes.

CPI general secretary D. Raja said that with the budget the government had tried to hoodwink the voters of the four election-going States, making false promises.

“This budget is a continuation of pro-corporate policies of the government. The government has abdicated the duty of rescuing the economy while leaving the doors open for corporates, dismantling the public sector undertakings, allowing FDI in all sectors including insurance,”

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