Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden Budget speech on Friday turned out to be a dud for poll-bound Maharashtra. While state BJP leaders were expecting some key state-specific announcements, much to their disappointment, Sitharaman made no specific mention about the spend plan for Maharashtra.With the state likely to go to polls in October, the Devendra Fadnavis government has been pushing implementation of Metro Rail and other big-ticket infrastructure projects. While Sitharaman spoke of the nationwide push to complete Metro and road infrastructure projects, her speech did not refer to the progress or the allocations made in this regard for infrastructure projects in Mumbai and other parts of the state.While presenting an interim Budget in February, then finance minister Piyush Goyal had highlighted the allocations made and the plans to revive Mumbai’s suburban rail network. While Sitharaman spoke of a plan to modernise stations, there was again no mention of the Mumbai’s rail network.The Opposition used Sitharaman raising tax on petrol and diesel to label the Budget as “anti-middle class” and “anti-farmer”.
“The BJP has been saying that the government’s economic policies would be middle-class centric. But it has yet againdisappointed the middle class and the farmers. The tax on petrol and diesel will burden the common man the most,” Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan said.
“The finance minister has failed to address issues affecting women,” said NCP state president Jayant Patil, while labelling the Union Budget as “directionless” and “one that would stymie natural growth”.
During the Lok Sabha elections in the state, the ruling party had leverage the monthly financial grants announced for poor farmers — Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sanman Yojana — in the interim Budget as a poll plank.
Now, with the Centre coming out with a pension scheme for shopkeepers and retailers with a turnover less than 1.5 crore annually, the state BJP plans to use these to woo traders in Mumbai, which have been loyal to the BJP over the years. “There was some disenchantment among the trader class following demonetisation and the introduction of GST. But they have stayed with us. This should please them,” said a senior leader.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, meanwhile, lauded the new incentives announced in the fisheries and the MSME sectors. “This will give impetus to the industry,” he said.
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With Maharashtra reeling under back-to-back drought, Fadnavis also lauded enhanced allocations made for improvement in rural infrastructure and agriculture. The Centre has enhanced the allocation for central sponsored agriculture schemes from Rs 67,800 crore in the revised estimates of 2018-19 to Rs 1.30 lakh crore in 2019-20, which is a 92 per cent increase.
Sceptics, however, pointed out that Rs 75,000 crore of this had been set aside to fund the PM-Kisan scheme.
Similarly, allocations for interest subsidy for short term credit to farmers have gone up from Rs 14,987 in 2018-19 (RE) to Rs 18,000 crore in 2019-20. The state BJP was also expecting some announcement regarding the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, under which, 26 major and medium irrigation projects in the state have the potential to increase the irrigated land area by 5.56 lakh hectare. But that did not
However, the expenditure Budget document showed that the overall spend over the scheme is expected to go up from Rs 2,950.69 cr (18-19) to Rs 3,500 crore (19-20).
Fadnavis also said that the plan to build 2 crore houses by 2022, construction of 1.25 lakh km of rural road, and incentives announced for women self-help groups proved that the poor, the farmers, and rural India were the focal point of the Budget.
Contending that the Budget lays the road map for achieving the 5 trillion-dollar economy goal by 2025, he claimed that it was one more step towards creation of a ‘New India’.