Congress party leaders on Thursday demanded from the government a Budget that was targeted at the aam aadmi and the middle class in the run up to the 2014 general election.
Interacting with the Finance Minister P Chidambaram, party general secretaries and other functionaries urged populist measures such as farmer loan help, minority and tribal welfare schemes, while reaching out to the middle class by increasing the income tax exemption threshold and doubling the number of subsidised cooking gas cylinders.
The FM said he was ‘optimistic’ about GDP growth figures but also put forward the financial constraints confronting the government.
He said with this being the last full budget before the 2014 election, with only a vote-on-account next year before the polls, it would be a major financial exercise.
There was a general demand for help to agriculturists and for raising the income tax exemption threshold. With several states also going to the polls, there were demands for increasing the number of subsidised LPG cylinders from the present six.
Also among the demands were raising the old-age pension scheme from the present Rs 300 a month to Rs 500 or more.
Some secretaries wanted stress on gender budgeting and child welfare schemes.
"The Finance minister told us what are the difficulties and how the Indian economy was kept at a balance despite the tough global economic scenario.
(In all) 32 of the 46 officebearers present spoke on various issues like those related to farmers, weavers, education, health and income tax," general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said after the meeting.
There was a general view that opposition-ruled states were ‘hijacking’ central government flagship schemes and projecting these as their own.