iconimg Saturday, August 29, 2015

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 28, 2013
The last year's reforms measures, particularly the capping of the fuel subsidy, had seen many Congress leaders expressing anxiety to the party brass over the political fallout.

But the budget-with its fine balance of economic compulsions and political priorities-came as a relief for the party that is bracing for the next general election.

Information and bradcasting minister Manish Tewari termed it as "a progressive, forward looking and growth oriented budget" and telecom minister Kapil Sibal pointed out that 15% allowance for mega investments will boost growth.

Sibal also defended Chidambaram's plan to keep the tax slabs unchanged: "tax rates in India are already one of the lowest in the world and to retain these rates itself is a challenge."

Keeping in sync with the overall youth focus of the Congress, Chidambaram set the tone early in his speech that he will try to create opportunities for youth "to acquire education and skills that will get them decent jobs or self-employment that will bring them adequate incomes."

Chidambaram's budget also provided for funds in micro-financing sector-a key support for the self-help groups (SHGs).

The UPA's Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana that organises SHGs for poor rural women is not only a success story in Amethi and Rae Bareli but even J&K government now wants to emulate it.

The budget provided Rs. 11,500 crore for the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) that would include the Bundelkand region, among other areas.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has been consistently supporting development of that region that has limited access to economic and agricultural activities.

Handloom-- another key sector for Uttar Pradesh which is the political home for the Gandhi family-has received concessional interest on working capital while the budget mentions special focus on areas affected by Left-wing terror.

Rural development and direct benefits transfer-the two other areas that enjoy patronage of Congress brass also found liberal help from the finance minister.

The North East where the Congress is in power in four out of seven states, also received infrastructure boost as Chidambaram proposed to seek international assistance to build roads there.