How good is the Punjab budget? The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP ministers could not care less to know. As the first speaker from the ruling benches — BJP MLA Manoranjan Kalia — got up to speak, both SAD and BJP ministers trooped out led by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal and revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia.
Soon, the treasury benches were near-empty with just nine members present against an equal number on the opposition benches. Midway through the speech, CM Parkash Singh Badal also went out. But this all did not stop Kalia from giving an impassioned speech. Much to the embarrassment of the ruling benches and amusement of the Congress, he delved into how the world was hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government as a gamechanger for the country.
“The economic sentiments are high. The business confidence index is high. The IMF has said India will be the fastest growing economy in 2016. American secretary of state John Kerry has also said the government is investor-friendly,” he said.
Here, he was interrupted by some MLAs who asked him also to speak on Punjab and its budget. “I am coming to that. Punjab’s budget cannot be seen in isolation. It has to be seen in the context of the larger economic sentiments, where union finance minister Arun Jaitley has pegged the growth rate for the coming year at 8.5%,” Kalia added.
Even as the presiding officer kept reminding Kalia that his scheduled time was over, the latter concluded only after having shared a few nuggets of wisdom. “There should also be a Mukhya Mantri Rickshaw Chalak Yojana under which rickshaw-pullers can get loans. Also, to check drug abuse, the anti-allergic salt pseudoephedrine should be banned as there are other salts available which have anti-allergic properties. And the disbursal of pensions and grants-in-aid to colleges should be on time,” he added.
SAD chief parliamentary secretary NK Sharma, during his turn to speak, heaped praises on how the SAD-BJP regime had turned the dream of housing for all into reality. The realtor, whose own fortunes have changed drastically through the “housing for all”
dream, also did not speak on the budget. He concluded his speech by hailing their party’s victory in the recent municipal elections, saying it was an endorsement of people’s faith in the government. After Lal Singh’s speech, it seemed both the opposition and ruling benches had lost interest in talking about the budget. The debate on stray cattle and dogs a day before had seen better participation and enthusiasm.
Surviving on overdraft, state in ICU for 4 months in a year: Lal Singh
Chandigarh: Leading the opposition charge in the budget debate, former finance minister Lal Singh on Friday termed the fourth budget by finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa as “directionless and disappointing”.
While sparing the “good man” Dhindsa the barbs, Lal Singh took potshots at chief minister Parkash Singh Badal who, he said, had high hopes of `1 lakh crore bailout package from the “friendly” government at the Centre.
“Badal saab, you are experienced at misleading people. You put the entire debt of `1 lakh crore as legacy of our party. Media reports say you were snubbed by finance minister Arun Jaitley. The latter also stopped Punjab’s cash credit limit during the procurement season causing unrest. Had former PM Manmohan Singh ever met out such a treatment to you? If you do not get a bailout as the state’s debt has now touched `1.24 lakh crore, the existence of your party would be in jeopardy,” Lal Singh told the CM.
He said Punjab was on overdraft for 126 days this year. “For four months, the state was in an intensive care unit (ICU). Be it revenue and fiscal deficit or debt, the alarm bells are ringing. The employees are not getting salaries on time and the needy their pensions. Little wonder that the budget does not mention to keep even a single poll promise,” he added.
He then warned the CM that a tsunami was in the making. “Not just Punjab farmers but your party would also be swept away if the MSP regime is disbanded. They are also saying that the Swaminathan Committee recommendations cannot be implemented. Compare the MSP of your government at the Centre with that of ours. You will know who is pro-farmer. Whenever the NDA has come to power at the Centre, it has destroyed Punjab. It was the NDA that gave tax concessions to the neighbouring hilly states. Badal saab, you will have to stage dharnas against the Centre. We will go with you,” Lal Singh said, adding that the BJP MLAs had run away from the debate.
Congress MLA Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, who spoke later, took on the ruling benches on everything but the budget. Mimicking PM Narendra Modi more than once, he drew guffaws from both sides as he questioned the arrival of “achhe din”.