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Lok Sabha passes Budget amid protests

Last updated on: March 16, 2007 17:15 IST

Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Friday confirmed that the Union Budget and the Supplementary Grants commended to the Lok Sabha were passed by the voice vote amid loud protests by the Opposition parties, led by Bharatiya Janata Party.

Finance minister read out parts of his speech (given below) to the media persons and television channels as nothing could be heard while he was replying to the debate on the Union Budget.

He took a dig at the deputy leader of the BJP Vijay Kumar Malhotra for ridiculing him for cutting customs duty  on the food items for pets. Malhotra had accused the finance minister of caring for animals while the poor man was being kicked, and termed the budget as anti-poor, anti-middle class, anti-women and anti-farmer.

He reminded Malhotra that he was not just the only one who had cut the customs duty. On two occasions 'my predecessor' had done the same when the National Democratic Alliance government was in power. He former finance minister named Yashwant Sinha for doing the same without mentioning it in the Union Budget.

"I could have also done the same. In my Budget speech there were more than 12,500 words and Mr Malhotra chose to take out only 25," Chidambaram said.

The finance minister admitted that he was indeed an animal lover and asked Malhotra to develop a sense of humour while wishing the BJP member, who is also president of the Archery Federation, a long life.

The finance minister's reply to the debate on General Budget:

"Mr. Speaker Sir, I am grateful to the Honourable Members belonging to different political parties who have participated in the debate on the Budget for 2007-08. I have listened to most of the interventions and I have also studied the notes made on the other interventions. It seems to me that most Members have mixed views: while they are genuinely happy about the impressive growth of the economy, they are legitimately concerned about some aspects of the growth which affect sections of the people. In fact, I share these sentiments and I have given expression to them in the Budget speech. There is no doubt that we have recorded an unprecedented rate of growth, but the question is, is the growth inclusive? There is no doubt that there is an investment boom in the country, but the question is, is the investment across all sectors, especially agriculture? There is no doubt that more jobs have been created, but the question is, are there jobs available for all? In the course of my reply, I shall make an attempt to answer these questions.

2. I am grateful to Hon'ble Shri Malhotra who opened the debate on the General Budget. He did so in 2004-05 and in 2005-06 too. Although he is a sports lover, presumably he believes in sportsmanship only on the playground and not in Parliament! Not one word of acknowledgement or praise for a good programme escaped his lips -- then and now. In 2004-05, he described the first Budget of the UPA Government as "the poor man is being kicked". That year recorded a growth rate of 7.5 per cent. In 2005-06, he described the second Budget as "anti-poor, anti-middle class, anti-women, anti-farmer" etc. That year recorded a growth rate of 9 per cent. The opening speaker on the Budget for 2006-07 – not Shri Malhotra – had also very harsh things to say about the Budget; nevertheless for 2006-07, the estimate of growth is 9.2 per cent. In a way, therefore, the harsh criticism of the Budget by the BJP is welcome. Such criticism appears to bode well for the economy. The more vehement the criticism, the better the growth story turns out to be. May I therefore wish Shri Malhotra – who has returned as the opening bowler in this year's Budget debate – many happy returns? In the interest of robust and sustained economic growth of the country, may I wish him a long life, many more years in the opposition and many more speeches opposing the Budget?

Onkar Singh in New Delhi