Extension of power subsidy to middle-class families, promise of better civic facilities in illegal colonies and slums, more beneficiaries for pension and food schemes — the Budget 2014-15 for Delhi had all the makings of a political statement.
Despite speculation that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might take a shot at government formation in Delhi, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley delivered a populist budget, hoping it will enable the party to catch votes in case fresh elections are held.
Delhi is under President’s rule after the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government resigned in mid-February.
Former Delhi finance minister and BJP leader Jagdish Mukhi, understood to be a front-runner for CM’s job, expectedly lauded the proposals. Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay said, “The budget has taken care of four major issues — power, water, unauthorised colonies and security of women besides health, education and transport.”
In the past few months, a number of decisions taken by the Modi government, including its inability to check food prices, and increasing railway fare and fuel prices, have dented the party’s image. A number of Delhi BJP MLAs had raised this issue with the national leadership since they believe that it might affect their prospects in the event of fresh elections.
Highly-placed sources in the party’s city unit said that this was the kind of Budget that would help repair the party’s image and win public support.
The BJP had won all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi, and led in 60 of the total 70 assembly segments in the city state. But the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had given the BJP a stiff competition, coming second at all seats and substantially increasing its vote share compared to the 2013 assembly elections.
The two other political players were quick to attack the BJP, calling budget a betrayal with the people. The AAP, which seems to be ruing its decision to quit in 49 days and desperately wants fresh elections to get back in power, said the BJP was trying to fool people.
“A desperate BJP is trying to wrongly portray that the Central government has not levied any new tax. The fact is that it is a well settled tradition that in any state which is under President’s rule no new fresh tax is levied when the Budget is presented in Parliament,” said an AAP spokesperson.
Former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal criticised the Delhi budget and said the BJP has taken a “u-turn” on almost all the election promises. “BJP (had) promised 30% reduction in tariff. It didn’t do it. Why this u-turn? BJP has made a u-turn on almost all poll promises,” Kejriwal said in a tweet.
Senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily slammed the Budget, saying it was a “shameless” exercise aimed at “garnering votes”.