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On Budget Day,Hooda stole Birender’s thunder

It's a day that generally belongs to the Finance Minister. But on the all important Haryana Budget presentation day today...

Written by Rajendra Khatry | Chandigarh |
February 14, 2009 3:02:18 am

It’s a day that generally belongs to the Finance Minister. But on the all important Haryana Budget presentation day today,Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda stumped Finance Minister Birender Singh by hogging the limelight with his slew of welfare announcements worth around Rs 700 crore for various section of people,in the Vidhan Sabha,shortly before the presentation of the budget. Some of these announcements were not even in the budget presented by the Finance Minister.

By the time Hooda finished his speech during his reply to the Governor’s address,cornering table thumping and cheers from the Congress and Independent MLAs,Birender Singh knew this was not going to be his day. When asked during the intervening lunch break before the presentation of Budget proposals what new incentives he proposed to announce,a somewhat chastened Birender Singh said with a wry smile,“Ab announce karne ko rah hi kya gaya hai. Sab kuch to announce ho hi gaya.’’

However,later during his customary post-budget press conference,the FM tried to downplay the issue of any possible rift or rivalry with the Chief Minister,saying,“As Finance Minister I should have information of any such announcement and I have. In fact I had suggested Hooda most of these things.’’

When another journalist asked whether he had received a ‘jhatka’ (shock) because of the unexpected welfare announcements by the CM,the Finance Minister denied it. But despite hiding his disappointment,it seemed obvious that he had been caught unawares.

When asked how happy he was with the Chief Minister’s announcement,for a second Birender Singh almost spoke out his mind. “What do you want me to say,’’ he posed a counter question with a mischievous smile.

Interestingly,approximately Rs 700 crore bonanza announced by the CM that included incentives benefiting the senior citizens,pensioners,freedom fighters,LTA for the pensioners,members of Panchayati Raj,destitute children,anganwadi workers had no mention in the budget proposals for the year 2009-10.

Birender Singh was not unduly worried about how the state would meet the extra burden of approximately Rs 700 crore to fund the announcements. “We will meet the extra expenses by supplementary demands or by borrowings,’’ he said.

Unfortunately,the state’s debt burden has been going up. This year’s debt burden went up by Rs 10,000 crore. While it was Rs 28,000 crore last year,the debt burden this financial year had gone up to Rs 38,000 crore.

Hooda and Birender Singh’s friendly rivalry has been known for years. Forthright and outspoken,Singh has,on a number of occasions,let his desire for holding the top post in the state be known. But perhaps even the FM had no inkling today he would be relegated to the background on his home turf.

Budget Takes
Not to miss:
Former Mohali Deputy Commissioner GIS Grewal did not miss his date with Birender Singh’s budget even this time round,minus his characteristic flamboyance.
What was missing:Fervent pitch of FM Birender Singh’s voice,which according to journos was because the CM had stolen his moment of glory,on his day. His wife was missing from the guest gallery too.
What was new:Deepinder Hooda,CM’s son and MP,sitting pretty at the guest gallery
What few knew:Birender Singh told a few scribes before the budget,“Budget has already been presented”,referring to the CM’s high-voltage announcements made before the budget presentation
What’s gone down:Real estate and manufacturing sectors. The impact to continue throughout the next year,said the FM on recession blues.
Neighbour’s envy:Our fiscal management is the envy of most other states,and despite adversity the surge of our economy is in the right direction,said Finance Minister Birender Singh

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