New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday praised the Union budget for its "vision and action" and was joined by top BJP leaders in hailing it, but the Opposition slammed Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's announcements as "insipid", saying they show that the government is "all talk".
Sitharaman's second budget, which she took a record 160-minute to present, left opposition parties unimpressed with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi saying that it offered no strategic idea or anything concrete, and left the issue of unemployment unaddressed.
Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram accused the government of being in "complete denial" about the economy facing a "grave macroeconomic challenge" and said it has given up on reviving the economy, accelerating growth or creating jobs.
However, the ruling NDA's leaders were euphoric in their praise for the budget. The BJP leaders, including Modi, used the hashtag "JanJanKaBudget" to highlight its features on social media.
Home Minister Amit Shah said it will contribute significantly in fulfilling the Modi government's resolve to double the income of farmers and provide unprecedented relief to the taxpayers.
"In this budget, the Modi government has taken effective steps to rationalise the tax system, boost the basic infrastructure, strengthen the banking system, promote investment and ease of doing business, which will further the Modi government's resolve to make India a five trillion-dollar economy," he said.
BJP president J P Nadda showered encomiums on the budget, the seventh in a row from the Modi government, calling it "visionary, futuristic, growth-oriented, transformative and all-inclusive" and saying that it will ensure the development of all sections of society.
The budget reflects aspirations, hopes and faith of the country, he said, adding that it will give impetus to the fulfilment of aspirations of the middle-income groups with a focus on home for all and by offering relaxation in income tax.
Hailing the budget, the prime minister said it will accelerate economic growth, financially empower every citizen and strengthen the foundation of the economy in the new decade.
Praising it for having both "vision and action", Prime Minister Modi said its provision of faceless appeal, new and simple structure of direct tax, move towards unified procurement system, stress on disinvestment are some of the steps which will reduce the government out of people's lives and will enhance their "ease of living".
"I believe that this budget will increase income and investment, increase demand and consumption, bring new vigour in the financial system and credit flow," he said
The budget, Modi noted, will meet the current needs of the country as well as the future expectations in the decade.
Sitharaman on Saturday slashed income tax for individuals, subject to their letting go of existing exemptions, abolished dividend tax for companies and announced record spending in agriculture and infrastructure sectors to pull out the economy from its worst slowdown in more than a decade.
She raised import duty on a variety of products ranging from tableware and kitchenware to electrical appliances to footwear, furniture, stationery and toys to boost domestic manufacturing.
Talking to reporters outside Parliament soon after the presentation of the budget, Rahul Gandhi said it does not address the main issue of unemployment confronting the youth of the country.
"I did not see any concrete, strategic idea that could help our youngsters get jobs. There were redundant things in the budget and I did not see any central idea," he said.
"It describes the government quite well. There is a lot of repetition, a lot of rambling and nothing concrete. It describes the mindset of the government, all talk, all talk, all talk, and nothing happening," the Congress leader added.
At the opposition party's press conference, Chidambaram said the government's claim of 6 to 6.5 per cent growth next year is "astonishing and even irresponsible".
Asked what rating he would give to the budget on a scale of 1 to 10, he took a dig, saying "10 has got a 1 and 0, you can pick either of a number. I am okay with it".
Slamming the budget's proposal to sell a part of the government's share in LIC, West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC president Mamata Banerjee on Saturday described it as a plan to "ambush" the legacy of public institutions.
"I am shocked and appalled to see how the central government plans to ambush the heritage and legacy of public institutions. It's the end of a sense of security. Is it also an end of an era?" the CM tweeted.
CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury criticised the budget, saying it did nothing to alleviate "people's miseries".
"Just platitudes & slogans. Nothing substantial to alleviate peoples' misery, the growing unemployment, rural wage crash, farmers' distress suicides and galloping prices," he said.
BJP ally and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan praised the budget as "historic" and "development-oriented".
Opposition leader Sharad Yadav said the economic growth is at a low of 4.5 per cent and the issue of unemployment has become grave but the budget offers nothing to tackle these problems.
It does not touch on the issues like farmer suicides, poverty, rising inflation, cases of bank frauds, he said, demanding that Sitharaman should "apologise" for "ruining" the economy.
BJP ally JD(U) praised the budget for its initiative on all fronts, but added that more could have been done to address the "rural distress".