"Did He Even Understand?" Smriti Irani Jabs Rahul Gandhi Over Budget

Smriti Irani, one of Rahul Gandhi's fiercest critics, had defeated him in the Lok Sabha election last year from his family stronghold, Amethi.

Smriti Irani accused Rahul Gandhi of sitting with his eyes closed through half the Budget speech (File)

New Delhi:

Union Minister Smriti Irani on Saturday took a sharp jibe at senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who has described Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's Budget speech in parliament as hollow. "Did he even understand it?" Ms Irani said when asked about Mr Gandhi's remark.

"I sit in front of him. During half of the Budget speech, he was sitting with his eyes closed. Then he went outside when financial implications and direct-indirect taxes were mentioned," she told NDTV.

"When Nirmala-ji felt unwell during the Budget speech, he was laughing, standing at the gallery... do you laugh if a woman is not well?" she added.

In a first, Ms Sitharaman did not complete her Union Budget 2020 speech, which was the longest ever. She paused mid-way and sat down because she reportedly felt unwell, and had to be given sugar.

The 60-year-old Finance Minister was on her feet for 2 hours 40 minutes and was seen wiping the sweat from her forehead. She told the Lok Sabha that there were only two more pages and the Budget should be considered read.

The highlight of the Budget speech was the announcement of enhanced income tax rebate for the middle-income group. The Finance Minister announced new income tax rates for individuals opting to forego exemptions, a move that will bring down the income tax outgo of those earning Rs 15 lakh a year by Rs 78,000 to Rs 1,97,000.

Her announcement that the government will sell some stakes in the Life Insurance Corporation via IPO also drew eyeballs.

Mr Gandhi, however, was not impressed with the Budget. "Maybe this was the longest budget speech in history, but it had nothing. It was hollow. PM Modi and Nirmala Sitharaman looked like they have absolutely no clue what to do next," Rahul Gandhi said while leaving parliament after attending the budget session.

"The main issue facing the country is unemployment. I didn't see any strategic idea that will help our youth get jobs. I saw tactical stuff but no central idea," Mr Gandhi said, adding, "It describes this government well - a lot of repetitions... all talk but nothing happening".

Mr Irani, one of the fiercest critics of Mr Gandhi, had defeated him in the Lok Sabha election last year from his family stronghold, Amethi. The former Congress chief, however, won from Kerala's Wayanad.

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