Shortly after Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee finished his budget speech, top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders huddled in Leader of Opposition LK Advani’s room and declared their verdict. It was a “national disappointment”, they said.
The leaders did like some things about the budget, though: the one-rank-one-pension scheme in the Armed Forces, the abolition of what it called the “much discredited” Fringe Benefit Tax and Commodities Transaction Tax, and the tax deduction for donations for electoral funds from company-owned trusts, “as it would help in electoral reforms.”
But there was little else in it, BJP leaders said.
With the middle class and farmers in mind, the party said it failed to address issues of the unemployed and farmers and other middle class-related issues, like tax exemption benefits, better housing, and incentives for infrastructure development.
When asked for his reaction, Advani instead questioned the reporters: “Did you find anything to be excited?”
Party leaders Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie — who traditionally hold forth on budget issues — were conspicuously absent, perhaps owing to their strained ties with the party leadership.
“The entire country awaited the budget in the midst of economic gloom, treating it as an opportunity wherein downturn could be reversed,” said Sushma Swaraj, Deputy Opposition leader in Lok Sabha.