In a bid to protect the interests of its middle class vote bank and to woo farmers, the BJP national executive committee on Saturday asked the government to restore the 20 per cent tax rebate under Section 88 for income up to Rs 500,000, reconsider the proposed service tax on insurance and evolve a system for providing direct fertilizer subsidy to farmers.
The five-page economic resolution adopted on the second day of the executive meeting acknowledged that the budget contained measures that may appear to be harsh to certain sections.
These included the five per cent surcharge on income tax, a half per cent cut in interest rate on small savings, reduction in rebate on taxable income of over Rs 150,000 and hike in prices of cooking gas, kerosene and urea.
It pointed out that these steps had become essential considering in view of the increased financial burden on account of the deployment of the armed forces on the border, a 20 per cent increase in plan outlay and also as part of a strategy to strengthen the aggregate demand in order to revive the economy, which has been passing through a stage of slow down.
Releasing the economic resolution, Jagdish Shettigar, convener of BJP economic cell, said Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who made a presentation of the condition of the economy, promised to consider the suggestions.
Five suggestions were made on the basis of amendments suggested by the members during the discussions.
They are: implementation of various development and welfare schemes should be strictly monitored, efforts should be made to recover all tax arrears, modification of crop insurance scheme and removal of tax concession on diesel used by the fishermen should be reconsidered.
The resolution said the government should rapidly proceed on amendments to the SEBI Act and give top priority to getting economic legislation passed by Parliament.
The privatisation programme, a key to improving resource allocation for social sectors, should be aggressively pursued to send clear signals about commitment to economic reforms, it added.
Appealing to the people to cooperate with the government at this hour of crisis, the resolution asked the government to set an example by cutting down wasteful expenditure.
As for the specifics, the resolution favoured continuation of subsidy for cooking gas and kerosene, but wanted the government to distance itself from the pricing process.
So, while the government may announce the quantum of subsidy support for cooking gas and kerosene, the party executive wants the net price to be determined by market forces as the Administered Price Mechanism for petroleum products has been phased out from April.
The resolution said steps should be taken to minimise issue prices of PDS foodgrains through efficient and decentralised food management and also, flexible distribution so that the poorest of the poor would enjoy food security.
It wanted an attractive monthly income scheme to be started exclusively for senior citizens as party MPs had been critical of the government for harming the interests of the pensioners.
Some others, including Sahib Singh Verma and V K Malhotra, were critical of the proposals relating to the middle class and the salaried sections.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha told newspersons that changes in the Budget proposals, if any, would be announced during the discussion on the Finance Bill in Parliament.
However, he did not specify which tax proposals would be reconsidered.
More reports on the BJP conclave in Goa
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