A record outlay — nearly double the amount against its first budget, coupled with a sharp focus on education and development of unauthorised colonies — marked the AAP government’s fifth Budget, peppered with a thrust on the “benefits” that full statehood can bring.
For increasing the outlay, a substantial rise in tax collection — from Rs 7,919 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 11,503 crore in 2018-19 — helped the government, which wants to ensure many of its flagship initiatives take off ahead of the 2020 Assembly polls.
Addressing the press, both Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia pointed out how the AAP’s signature subsidies in areas of water and power have failed to make any dent on its ability to spend more, which they said should be an answer to those who questioned “the party’s understanding of the economy”.
Sisodia’s Budget speech had at least seven references to full statehood. In the past Budget speeches, the tussle with the Centre and the L-G had found space, but not statehood. Kejriwal suggested Delhi’s tax kitty would have increased manifold had the services department and the Anti-Corruption Branch been with the elected government, as its best officers would have been engaged in this task. “Our biggest challenge is adha-adhuri rajya (the incomplete status of Delhi as a state),” he said.
“Citizens of Delhi have been made to feel like second-class citizens, even for small matters, because Delhi is not a full state. How can the value of a single vote cast by a citizen of Delhi be any less than the value of a vote cast in any other state?” Sisodia said. Kejriwal said the promises that “could not be met” are mostly owing to obstacles put by the BJP-led Centre.
“They used to say we don’t understand the economy. But our budget has doubled since we came to power… We know how to run a government. And if the BJP and Congress want to learn from us, they are free to. If Delhi was a full state, every promise would have been fulfilled,” the CM said. Kejriwal also “postponed” his plan to sit on an indefinite fast from March 1 over the statehood demand, in the view of the prevailing India-Pakistan situation.