Loan waiver move leaves opposition shell-shocked

February 29th, 2008 - 6:34 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) In one deft stroke, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram took the wind out of the opposition’s sails by announcing farm loan waiver worth Rs. 600 billion (Rs. 60,000 crore), which some MPs said was as good as “falling short of announcing the election date.” The opposition, which has been berating the government on the issue of farm loans and the unending agrarian suicides, was literally left speechless at Chidambaram’s “landmark” announcement.

Unable to digest the finance minister’s populist announcement, the opposition MPs and some of the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) - the so-called Third Front - members started shouting that it was “an eyewash.”

An amused Chidambaram, with his characteristic cool, gestured them to take their seat saying: “Nothing you can do about it. No point in shouting!” even as the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) MPs stood up and thumped the desk in appreciation.

The visibly upset NDA MPs tried to disrupt the proceedings despite Speaker Somnath Chatterjee’s repeated pleas to take their seat. “You are trying to deceive the farmers,” an opposition MP shouted at Chidambaram. The UPA MPs were quick to out shout them asking them to “accept the reality.”

As the din continued Chatterjee asked the MPs: “Is this the concern you are showing for the farmers?”

The treasury benches virtually enjoyed the embarrassment of the opposition leaders. “Have you noticed how (TDP MP) K. Yerran Naidu was turning pale and then red?” asked a Congress minister from Andhra Pradesh in obvious satisfaction.

None of the opposition MPs, including their spokespersons, came out of parliament for a long time after the budget presentation. “It will take some time for them to digest this announcement. They are in shock as they cannot capitalize on this issue any more,” another Congress MP, who did not like to be identified, said.

Outside parliament, the opposition as well as the UNPA termed the budget as an “election gimmick.”

As if forced to react negatively to the budget, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Vijay Kumar Malhotra told reporters later: “This has come very late. Had they announced it earlier, the lives of thousands of farmers could have been saved.”

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani alleged the budget had “minority overtones”.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)’s Sitaram Yechury reacted saying, “only Advani can recognize such things.”

The Left parties, which have been criticizing the government’s economic policies, also did not have much to attack on the budget.

“Chidambaram had everything in the budget. He missed out only one thing - announcing the election date,” Communist Party India (CPI) MP Gurudas Dasgupta quipped.

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