New Delhi: Recalling that the finance minister had promised a “budget like never before”, her predecessor P Chidambaram dubbed the budget as “a letdown like never before” and claimed it would “unravel sooner than you think”. Presenting Congress’ critique of the budget, he also kept the government guessing on his party’s floor strategy on the government resolve to amend the Insurance Act, 1938, to enhance FDI limit in insurance to 74% and on the move to sell one of the insurance companies. However, Chidambaram recalled how BJP had in 1997 forced the Gujral government to withdraw a proposal to have 20% FDI in insurance. “Let us see how the people of India, and employees of insurance companies react to the proposal,” he said. He also strongly opposed the move sell public sector banks.
Chidambaram and ex-defence minister AK Antony accused the government of failing to enhance budgetary allocation for defence despite the Chinese threat on the border. “She did not mention defence at all, as if the Chinese had vacated occupied Indian territory. She did not mention that defence expenditure in 2021-22 will see no rise. It is flat at Rs 3,47,088 crore, almost the same as the Rs 3,43,822 crore in the current year.”
Speaking separately, Antony said: “The entire armed forced were seeking a substantial increase in the defence budget in view of the alarming scene at the Sino-Indian border due to the threat of Chinese intrusion from Arunachal Pradesh to Sikkim to eastern Ladakh to Uttarakhand. We have been seeking 3% of GDP as budget allocation. But the actual budget allocation for defence has turned out to be a betrayal. I urge the FM to reconsider the decision and make a substantial allocation for defence.”