Union minister Piyush Goyal's 1 hour 45 minute budget speech got a dig from Congress's P Chidambaram today, not only in terms of length but also the mix of languages. The government's intention, Mr Chidambaram said, could have been to "confuse people".
Mr Goyal, who handles the railways portfolio, had been standing in for finance minister Arun Jaitley, who is in the US for medical treatment. After much "will he won't he" anticipation about Mr Jaitley's presenting the budget, Mr Goyal had to fill in for him today.
"While I advocate the use of both Hindi and English as official languages, no one intended them to be used alternatively," said Mr Chidambaram.
"The result was people who did not understand English, did not understand half of the budget and people who did not understand Hindi, did not understand the other half. The intention was to confuse people even if for a day," added the minister, who used to handle the finance portfolio in the budget in the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh.
Mr Singh today said what was supposed to be an interim budget has ended up being an "election budget".
"In these circumstances, concessions to farmers, middle class will have obvious implications on polls," said the former Prime Minister, who ushered in the era of liberalisation as the finance minister under PV Narasimha Rao.
The Congress has sharply criticised the budget, including its provisions for small farmers - a cash transfer of Rs 6000 a year. Party chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted," "Dear NoMo, 5 years of your incompetence and arrogance has destroyed the lives of our farmers.
Giving them Rs. 17 a day is an insult to everything they stand and work for".
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