Mamata Banerjee showers SOPs in budget ahead of crucial assembly polls

By, Kolkata
Feb 06, 2021 12:34 AM IST

The list included generating 1.5 crore new employment opportunities, hiking farmer’s aid, among others.

With an eye on the crucial assembly elections ahead, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, while presenting the state’s the vote-on-account in the legislative assembly on Friday, showered SOPs and made a series of announcements.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a public rally in Alipurduar on Wednesday(PTI)
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a public rally in Alipurduar on Wednesday(PTI)

The list included generating 1.5 crore new employment opportunities, hiking farmer’s aid, free ration and cooked food from common kitchen for the poor and pension for senior citizens and widows, among others.

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“With the permission of the Speaker, I propose a budget of 299,688 crore (net) for the year 2021-22 on behalf of the state government,” Banerjee read from the interim annual financial statement.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been targeting the ruling TMC over lack of employment in the state and depriving the state’s farmers from getting the financial benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana.

“The state should publish a white paper and initiate a probe on all contractual jobs done till date. It should make public the number of people employed through such contracts, when were they recruited and how. The entire process is shady and corrupt,” said Shamik Bhattacharya, BJP’s state spokesperson.

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This was the last budget presentation during the second term of the Trinamool Congress-government which first came to power in 2011 and for the second term in 2016. Assembly elections could be held in March–April this year.

Buoyed by its impressive gains in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls where the party won 18 of the 42 seats, the BJP has set a target of winning more than 200 seats in the 294-seated legislative assembly.

The chief minister, even in the financial statement, attacked the BJP-led Centre saying, “Had the Central government provided some financial relief in this hour (cyclone Amphan, Covid-19 pandemic and the economic depression) of crisis, it would have helped us in meeting the challenges.”

In the Union budget, the Centre had allocated 25,000 for road infrastructure development and renovation of roads. In a counter, Banerjee announced construction of 46,000 kilometres of rural roads and several other roads and flyovers and allocated nearly 3000 kilometres for the next financial year.

With the crucial assembly elections just around the corner, the BJP and the TMC are virtually engaged in a tug-o-war over Bengal’s icons. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is hoping to unseat the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in the state, and the TMC have both laid claim to Bengali icons Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. In the budget, Banerjee stated that the state would construct Azad Hind Monument in respect of Netaji.

As the CM read out the statement, BJP legislators trooped into the well of the assembly, demanding that Mitra, and not Banerjee, should be reading out the vote-on-account. Later, they walked out of the House. They staged a walkout and shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans while going out of the assembly. Left Front and Congress MLAs also boycotted the session.

Usually, the finance minister reads out the budget statement. But this year, state finance minister Amit Mitra could not attend the assembly due to health issues.

Although the budget announces a plan for the full year, this year because of the assembly elections, the expenditure approval will be sought over the next three months in the form of a 'vote on account'.

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