"It is election time," Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, sarcastically, on Thursday when asked if the Union Budget's proposal to raise personal income tax rebate limit would bring relief to the middle class.
"Votewa ka time hai na," the JD(U) leader said in a typically Bihari accent when journalists approached him with the query in Saharsa district which he was touring as part of his mass outreach programme 'Samadhan Yatra'.
Mr Kumar chipped in with the colloquialism even as state Finance Minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, who accompanied him, insisted, "The catch lies in the huge exemptions given to those with high incomes, the real beneficiaries."
In the budget presented on Wednesday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed slashing the highest surcharge rate on personal income tax from 37 per cent to 25 per cent and raising the rebate limit to Rs 7 lakh.
Mr Kumar, who had on Wednesday termed the budget as "disappointing", expressed dismay over the reduced budgetary outlay for schemes such as MNREGA, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Samman Yojana.
"Spending on health and education has also been reduced. I wonder what are the priorities (of central government)," said Mr Kumar.
"Even the much-touted Saptarshi (seven priorities) does not seem to offer much upon close scrutiny," said the JD(U) leader, who had snapped ties with the BJP in August last year.
Now a votary of a "united opposition" for taking on the BJP in Lok Sabha polls next year, Mr Kumar said, "Poor states like Bihar have once again been neglected. We have been growing at a good speed but our demand for special status to accelerate the process continues to be ignored."
The longest-serving chief minister of Bihar, who has been pushing for special category status for "all backward states", also rued "reduction in borrowing limits for states which would further hamper our ability to marshal resources".
He also hit out at the Centre for "progressively increasing the burden to be shared by states of schemes which it launches and claims all credit for".
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)