With eye on 2021 polls, Bengal’s Trinamool govt presents populist budget

The state budget made an allocation of ₹5,150 crore for 2020-21 primarily targeting the social sectors

Amit Mitra
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Finance Minister Amit Mitra during a cabinet meeting on the presentation of the budget | Photo: Twitter/ANI

In its last budget ahead of the 2021 assembly elections in West Bengal, the TMC government on Monday (February 10) announced populist schemes, including a proposal for free electricity to those with quarterly consumption of up to 75 units. The Budget 2020-21 also included allocation of funds for setting up 100 MSME parks in the next three years.

Finance Minister Amit Mitra presented the budget for which has an outlay of ₹2,55,677 crore with a limited deficit of ₹8 crore. This is the last full budget of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government in the state ahead of next year’s assembly elections in the state.

With an eye on the 2021 assembly polls and the upcoming election in 107 civic bodies in the state, the budget by the TMC government gave sops primarily to the social sector and reached out to the backward sections of the state, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made deep inroads in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

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The budget made an allocation of ₹5,150 crore for 2020-21 primarily targeting the social sectors, and also for creating employment in the MSMEs. In his budget speech, the finance minister claimed while the country is going down on various economic indices, West Bengal is surging forward in terms of GSDP growth and on other yardsticks.

He said the government has made allocations for opening up of new universities, welfare for the aged belonging to SC and ST categories, workers in the unorganised sector, MSME sector, assistance to the unemployed youth, tea garden workers, besides for providing free electricity to the poor and assistance for getting government services.

The minister said a total allocation of ₹5,150 crore has been made for the next financial year towards these. Mitra said in the current financial year, the state has been able to generate 9.11 lakh employment opportunities. For 2020-21, the state government has projected tax revenue receipts of ₹70,807 crore against the revised estimate of ₹65,806 crore in 2019-20.

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The government in the budget has also proposed dispute settlement schemes with respect to VAT, CST, entry tax, and settlement of disputes under the Motor Vehicles Act, waiver of interest on outstanding stamp duty and reduction of stamp duty on an amalgamation of adjacent plots.

Later addressing a post-budget press conference along with Mitra, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hailed it as a “pro-people budget” prepared keeping in mind all sections of the people. Banerjee said the central government has denied the state government ₹1 lakh crore in various segments.

She urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the union government to work together with opposition parties and refrain from the “politics of vendetta” to revive the economy. Banerjee referred to the recent comments by RBI on the state of the economy and said the union government should look after it, instead of being busy in the politics of hatred.

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“Whatever RBI is saying is a sensitive matter. The Union government should look after the economy, instead of being busy in the politics of hatred. The prime minister should take everybody along, if needed hold discussions with opposition parties,” Banerjee said while urging the union government to refrain from the “politics of vendetta”.

Everybody should work together to improve the economic condition and if needed Prime Minister Narendra Modi should speak to the opposition parties, she said. Later, in a tweet, she took a dig at the central government, saying her dispensation presented a “people’s budget without having to sell any of the state PSUs”.

“We have presented a people’s Budget without having to sell any of the state PSUs. Simultaneously, we’ve spread smiles across communities. The Centre can, for a change, help make these smiles broader by working with the States. We’ll let the people decide which Budget is better,” the tweet said.

(With inputs from agencies)