A day after the SAD-BJP government presented its budget proposals for 2013-14 in the Vidhan Sabha, the Congress, which has been boycotting the House proceedings, termed the document "hollow" and "the worst budget ever" for Punjab. At the fourth day of the mock session being held by the party in the Vidhan Sabha complex, on Thursday, Congress MLAs went as far as to seek the resignation of finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa.
Though the opposition party had not come up with any 'parallel' budget on Wednesday, a discussion on Thursday saw senior Congress leader and former finance minister Lal Singh presenting figures to underline the gravity of the dire financial situation of Punjab. "The debt has grown by Rs 44,460 crore in the six years of SAD-BJP rule since 2007, while the Congress had borrowed only Rs 15,844 crore in its five-year term before that," he said.
"Never before were the borrowings so huge," he remarked, and then elucidated: "Any government can take a loan of 3.5% of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), so Punjab can take a loan of only Rs 13,200 crore. Of this money, as per the budget proposals, only Rs 1,616 crore would be available for expenditure, while the rest would go into servicing the debt (paying the interest)."
Thus, foreseeing a "financial emergency", Lal Singh explained, "After borrowing the Rs 13,200 crore, the Punjab government will not be in a position to take more loans."
Congress MLAs who attended the mock session were of the view that the SAD-BJP had failed to fulfill promises made before the 2012 elections. A resolution was also passed to ask the election commission to have a procedure to disqualify a political party or a coalition if it fails to fulfill promises made in its manifesto.
MLAs Gurkirat Singh Kotli and Balbir Singh Sidhu pointing to "mistakes" in the budget document, and said the government had "violated constitutional provisions".
Alleging that the budget had revealed less but has hidden a lot, Lal Singh said further, "There is no mention of loss-bearing public sector undertakings (PSUs) in the budget. Out of 53 PSUs, 31 are under heavy debt, which totals to Rs 64,223 crore." Comparing the figures with Haryana, he gave the corresponding figure for PSUs in the neighbouring state -"a much less debt of Rs 5,600 crore".
On the oft-repeated claims of making Punjab power-surplus, Lal Singh said the upcoming thermal plants were equivalent of purchasing power, as the plants have been allotted to private companies that have signed long-term purchase agreements with the Punjab government.