Former Union minister and rebel BJP leader Yashwant Sinha lashed out at the Union Budget 2018-19 as an “exercise done without application of mind” and slammed the Centre for allocating little time for debate on the matter.
Speaking at an interactive session on the Budget in Kolkata on Tuesday, Sinha said, “This time, we have just three-and-a-half days for discussion on the president’s address, rail budget and general budget. Previously, we had three days for discussion on presidential address, three days for rail budget and three days for general budget. I do not understand (why the Centre is) allotting such little time for debate this time. Is it to ensure that Parliamentarians do not have enough time to discuss the finer points of lapses in the Budget?”
Sinha has already formed the ‘Rashtra Manch’, a political action group to take on the BJP-led Centre and its policies. On January 30, the TMC, Congress and AAP sent representatives to a Manch meeting.
“When the earlier central VAT had only three slabs namely merit, mean and demerit, so many slabs in GST defeats the very purpose of the new tax regime meant for simplification of tax structure. The Union finance minister has thoroughly failed in guiding the exercise to have a simplified indirect tax structure,” he said.
Sinha also referred to an article in The Indian Express, (The MSP smokescreen), to negate the Centre’s claims that the Budget is “pro-farmer”.“The definition of ‘cost of production’ is absent and hence it isn’t clear what 1.5 times of cost of production means,” he said.
The BJP leader questioned the logic of first fixing GST on fertilisers at 18 per cent, then reducing the same to 12 per cent. “Was the finance minister not aware that fertiliser is an important component in the agriculture sector? Why was it fixed at 18 per cent in the first place?” Sinha asked.
Sinha stated that he was forced to highlight issues in public after he sought time from the Prime Minister towards the end of 2016 and got no response.
“In December 2016, I called up the Prime Minister and sought time (for a meeting). I never got that… Ultimately, I had to make the issues public,” he said.
“BJP is my party more than anyone else’s. Who fought for the party from 2004 to 2014? Then some other people came in. Please ask the party why they are not expelling me. If they want, they can do that. Promises made to people during elections should be fulfilled after one forms the government,” he added.
Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi, who was present at the programme, said the issue is not about a party, but the common people of the country.
“Supreme Court judges are coming to the public, people are talking in Whatsapp and not phones, look what has happened to the country. This is apart from the hardships imposed after demonetisation and GST,” he said.