The lack of big ticket announcements or any tax relief in the interim budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman underlined the ruling BJP’s confidence ahead of the national election. The government will present a detailed roadmap to pursue its goal of Viksit Bharat in its full budget in July, the minister said.
The tone was set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday. Addressing the media at the start of the Budget session, the Prime Minister said, “Just before the election, we don’t submit a full budget, this we will do after a new government is elected. This interim budget is a guideline for us. I am hopeful that the country will touch new heights of prosperity. Development for everyone is taking place. This journey will continue with your blessings. Ram Ram.”
Though this is not a full budget, taxpayers had hoped for some relief in an election year. There was buzz on the possibility of the government revising the cap on investment exempted from Income Tax. Some Opposition leaders had also expected the government to make populist announcements with its eye on the elections. But what was presented was a statement of confidence and a plan to keep the big announcements for later.
Ms Sitharaman said she had decided to not make any taxation changes in keeping with the convention in interim budgets.
The BJP welcomed the budget. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said it “draws the roadmap” to achieve Prime Minister Modi’s vision of a Developed Bharat by 2047. External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said the budget “captures a decade of transformation, while laying out a vision of further development”.
Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekar told news agency ANI that it is an “excellent summary of the qualitative and quantitative transformation of the Indian economy in the last 10 years”. Union Minister and BJP veteran Nitin Gadkari said “this is a budget to speed up country’s development and increase employment”.
Opposition leaders said there was hardly anything in the offing.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said this is the “farewell budget” of the BJP. “A budget is useless if it is not for development or for the people. The BJP government has achieved a shameful record by completing a decade of anti-people budgets. This record will never be broken because the time of a progressive government has come,” he said in a post on X.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said this was one of the shortest Budget speeches on record. “Not very much came out of it. As usual, a lot of rhetorical language, very little concrete on implementation. She talked about foreign investment without acknowledging that that investment has come down significantly. She talked about a number of things which are couched in vague language like ‘confidence’ and ‘hope’ and so on. But when it comes to hard figures, very few figures available,” he said.
The BJP’s confidence in a Lok Sabha poll victory, reflected in the minister’s budget speech, is not without reason.
With just months left for the big poll contest, the Opposition’s INDIA bloc is still struggling to put its house in order. Seat-sharing talks have hit roadblocks in Bengal and Punjab. In Uttar Pradesh too, the Samajwadi Party has announced some candidates, saying that it does not require Congress’s clearance. In Bihar, the exit of Nitish Kumar-led JDU has dealt a big blow to the Opposition bloc. In Kerala, another Opposition stronghold, there is no sign of a united fight either.