Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi today over his BJP government's preparations for the Union Budget, which will likely be presented February 1. Taking to Twitter this morning, Mr Gandhi alleged the Prime Minister's "most extensive budget consultation" was a smokescreen that hid the centre's lack of concern for hardships faced by large sections of the country, including farmers, women and students.
"PM Modi's 'most extensive' budget consultation ever is reserved for crony capitalist friends and the super-rich. He has no interest in the views or voices of our farmer, students, youth, women, government and public sector employees, small businessmen or middle-class tax payers," Rahul Gandhi said in his tweet.
This year's budget comes amid a huge slowdown in the economy that has affected jobs and consumption. The government has forecast 5 per cent growth for the current fiscal - slower than the 6.8 per cent growth of 2018/19 and the slowest in 11 years - and earlier refused to release a report on consumer spending because of "data quality issues".
Modi's "most extensive" budget consultation ever, is reserved for crony capitalist friends & the super rich. He has no interest in the views or voices of our farmers, students, youth, women, Govt & PSU employees, small businessmen or middle class tax payers. #SuitBootBudgetpic.twitter.com/6VP2g9OyNT— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 10, 2020
The decision not to release the report came shortly after the Business Standard newspaper cited unpublished data from the National Statistical Office to suggest consumer spending - goods and services households spend on - dropped for the first time since the 1970s.
On Wednesday Mr Gandhi came out in support of a nationwide strike by central trade unions who had slammed the Narendra Modi government for its "anti-people and anti-labour" policies.
The Congress leader also alleged the large-scale privatisation of public sector units (PSUs) like AIr India and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited was being done to benefit the Prime Minister's "crony capitalist friends".
With elections in the national capital now less than a month away, Mr Gandhi has stepped up his attack on PM Modi and the BJP. In a rally at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan last month the Lok Sabha MP accused the Prime Minister of "single-handedly" destroying the economy.
Harking back to PM Modi's contentious demonetisation programme, Mr Gandhi linked its disastrous impact on the economy to the growth rate and recent price crises, such as the increase in cost of onions and tomatoes.
In October Mr Gandhi had taken aim at the centre over the farmers' welfare, saying "rural India is in severe distress... the economy has sunk and the government is clueless about what to do".
The Prime Minister met top industrialists from various sectors on Monday in pre-budget consultations. Some of the high-profile faces at that meet were Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata and Anand Mahindra.
The PM also met with some of the country's top economists at the Niti Aayog in Delhi yesterday. The meeting was attended by Home Minister Amit Shah and other cabinet ministers but Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was absent.
She also missed the meeting between PM Modi and industrialists, drawing criticism from the Congress.
The government has come under fire for its handling of the economic crisis, with two former Finance Ministers - the Congress's P Chidambaram and the BJP's Yashwant Sinha - casting doubts over the claim of 5 per cent growth and the Prime Minister's plans for a $5 trillion economy.