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Opposition joins hands to slam ‘anti-people’ budget

New Delhi, Feb 26 (Calcutta Tube) Opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left parties, united in slamming the government Friday over the ‘anti-people’ union budget, especially the hike in duty on petrol and diesel, and even walked out of parliament during the budget speech.

In an unusual departure from the norm, opposition MPs Friday walked out of the Lok Sabha during Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s budget presentation, provoking the minister to stop in his tracks and shout impatiently that he be allowed to continue. Members of the BJP, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Left parties, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) rose from their seats when Mukherjee spoke of the basic duty on crude oil being restored.

‘This (budget) is a constitutional requirement,’ an angry Mukherjee told the opposition MPs, many of whom were standing up and drowning him out.

But they walked out nonetheless, leaving Mukherjee to finish the last 15 minutes of his speech without the opposition.

The only ones left were independents Jaswant Singh, Digvijay Singh and Inder Singh Namdhari as well as the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and the Trinamool Congress-backed Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI).

The walkout marred a presentation that lasted an hour and 45 minutes.

Later, the opposition leaders jointly addressed reporters to slam the government over the hike in central duty on petrol and diesel.

‘This is an anti-farmer, anti-poor, anti-people budget,’ Sushma Swaraj, BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, told reporters.

Also present were SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad. Both the SP and RJD provide outside support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

Referring to Thursday’s discussion in the two houses of parliament on price rise, Mulayam Singh said the hike in central tax on petrol and diesel had come within hours of the opposition members voicing their concern on the price situation. ‘The discussion (on price rise) took place only 12 hours back,’ he said.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad was equally critical of the government. ‘They (the government) have hiked the prices of petrol, fertiliser, cement… people are crushed under the rising prices of essential commodities.’

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Basudeb Acharia said the opposition had never before staged a walk-out during the general budget. ‘This (walk-out) is unprecedented. The whole opposition was united. We will take the movement forward,’ he said.

Talking to reporters later, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said the rise in price of petrol and diesel would be ‘disastrous for the aam admi (common man).’

‘The net result is there is no relief even to the middle class. The budget is in the name of the aam admi, but it is against the aam admi,’ he said.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja said the walkout from the Lok Sabha was spontaneous and reflected the gravity of the problem faced by the people due to price rise. ‘The government did not give a convincing reply,’ he said.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the budget would consolidate the post-downturn recovery process, strengthen infrastructure and improve collection of revenue.

He said the opposition was just interested in ‘scoring political brownie points’.

Talking to reporters at the BJP’s official briefing, party leader Yashwant Sinha said Mukherjee had failed to address concerns of the aam aadmi.

‘The increase in petroleum product prices will have a massive cascading effect on all prices. The tax burden imposed in this budget is unprecedented and will add fuel to fire on the price front,’ he said.

He said the allocation for agriculture was too meagre to make any difference on the ground. ‘The budget puts hardly any burden on the rich and the powerful while it deals a crushing blow to the aam admi,’ Sinha added.

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