In the second year of his third term, as Chief Minister Narendra Modi runs for prime ministership, his government chose to present a vote-on-account of Rs 1,20,390 crore for 2014-15 in line with the Union government, detailing an interim plan allocation of Rs 40,000 crore for the April-July 2014 period, given the impending Lok Sabha elections.
The public debt of the Gujarat government that currently stands at Rs 1.38 lakh crore is expected to increase to Rs 1.53 lakh crore with the net addition of Rs 15,000 crore in 2013-14.
And, as if in response to Union Finance Minister, P Chidambaram’s recent budget speech — in which he had summed up the achievements of the 10-year-old UPA Government — the state finance minister Nitin Patel’s budget speech also chose to highlight Modi government’s last 13 years pitching Gujarat as “India’s growth engine”.
Presenting a Gujarat vs India report card, Patel’s budget estimates rated the performance of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate in the last 12 years as being better than Manmohan Singh’s 10 and promised to come out with a “Modi-fied budget” post-Lok Sabha elections.
His speech used terms like “unprecedented”, “in a first”, “first time since the establishment of Gujarat”, and so on to describe certain schemes. Incidentally, Modi had called Chidambaram’s speech “a glorified exercise in self-congratulation”. Patel told the Assembly, “The Union government has decided to present a vote-on-account for the financial year 2014-15 and therefore it is appropriate that the polices of state governments are also in line with the approach and direction to be taken by the Government at the Centre. We have therefore decided to present and seek a vote-on-account … to enable us to plan in a sustainable manner.”
“Sufficient time is not there to think over the demands of this year,” Patel remarked adding that a “Modified budget would be presented before this august House at a later date’’ incorporating new initiatives under Plan and non-Plan sections. With elections round the corner, the state has not only refrained from imposing any fresh taxes or levies in the interim budget, but also chose not to provide any relief or sops to the people. The interim budget also offers no new schemes or services.
Patel started out with the theme, “India’s economic development through Gujarat’s development”, and said that Gujarat’s contribution to the country’s GDP, which was 5.8 per cent in 2000-01, has increased to 7.32 per cent in 2011-12. “Thus, Gujarat has become India’s growth engine,’’ he said.
Like Chidambaram, Patel, in certain areas like state domestic product, per capita income, economic growth, sex ratio and skill development, chose to compare Modi government of 2001 – when he first became CM — with Modi government of 2013 to say that Gujarat’s performance was better than the national average as per these indicators.
Patel also told the assembly how the state had outperformed itself in the last decade in all sectors – be it education, irrigation, urban development, health or social sector.
“This overview of last decade unambiguously shows that we have celebrated the pride of Gujarat in inclusive and comprehensive development. Today, Gujarat is more than a mere geographical entity, it stands for capable and growth-oriented administration’’. Patel told mediapersons later, “We have not introduced any new taxes for several years now. In spite of this, the state government has been able to implement development activities without any hiccup”.
Asked why the state had not taken any steps to rein in the price rise, Patel said, “Keeping a tab on price-rise and inflation is Government of India’s responsibility”.
Mentioning how Gujarat had converted challenges into opportunities, Patel said, “The general impression about PSUs is that they are loss-making units. But in Gujarat, the collective net loss in 2001-02 was Rs 2,702 crore. Against this now they are making profit of Rs 4041 crore, generating investment of Rs 97,472 crore and about 1,12,000 jobs with 13.9 per cent share in GSDP’’.