Cliches have a saturation point. Chidambaram was good at playing around with words, but over a period he sounds bogus and boring. It took some time for the merchant of dream budget to expose himself and attract all-round denunciation.
Gone are the days when Chidambaram used to advise the Indian farmer to stop cultivating wheat and vegetables?for the world market is already flooded with these items?instead go for cut flower and cash crops. He also promoted prawn cultivation on hugely fertile land. To unearth black money he advocated voluntary disclosure scheme. He was the darling of the neo-rich, he promoted playing in the stock market and spending excessively on consumer durables and cosmetics. But that was the Finance Minister of the post-liberalisation nineties.
The new UPA FM is the latest middle-class tormentor. To say that the budget for 2007-08 is lacklustre is to repeat the obvious. The Finance Minister'snew-found love for the farm and rural sector will not yield anything. At best it will fatten the pockets of politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen. In any case, the Economic Survey uncovers the banality of UPA claims on rural spending. Sarvasiksha Abhiyan, which the NDA government launched with great vision, is today in total disarray, thanks to a scheming, absentee minister at the helm. All allocations for education will go down the drain, under Arjun Singh, the Economic Survey has conceded that much that the total literacy cannot meet the target. But the increased cess will further pinch the common man.
Under a government, that came to power in the name of aam aadmi, according to a recent survey, almost 47 per cent of a salaried person'sincome is taken away as tax. The indirect tax is the biggest loot. In the name of service tax the middle class is forced to eke out a wretched living. From telephone, ball pen to school notebooks, even a cup of tea in a decent hotel is taxed. When the FM talks of additional Rs. 1,00,000 crore tax mobilisation he is talking about further taxing the common man, for most of it will come from direct and indirect taxes. The tragedy is a small or medium businessman is taxed heavier than big MNCs or desi tycoons.
Import duties have been cut. The Finance Minister proudly claims that hundreds of tonnes of food items are being imported to control the price rise. But the Indian farmer is still under rural indebtedness. His produce does not get better remuneration even though we pay double the amount for the imported stuff. To tackle rural indebtedness, the FM has no idea.
The Congress has spiked India'sdream. The NDA left a booming economy. We were exporting wheat and other food items, stocks were overflowing, there was no scarcity for anything. Inflation was at the lowest at 3.5 per cent, interest rates low, infrastructure industry was peaking. For two years UPA reaped the harvest of this buoyant economy left by the NDA. Things have changed and the Chidambaram budget proves the party is over. Our experts analyse this in greater detail.
Nobody had ever accused Chidambaram of being a pet lover. But the irony is that he has made pet food cheaper, while he insists it will take two to three years for tackling food scarcity. Budget is no magic wand for price control, he says. It is not a matter for low joke as Lalu Yadav has made it out saying that the BJP people are fond of going for walk with their chained pet dogs. The serious side is most pet food items are imported and the duty cut helps MNCs make a killing in the Indian market. This is poor man'sbudget, UPA brand.