Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 1
The Union Budget 2021-22 was presented on Monday on an iPad and amid a boycott by the Shiromani Akali Dal and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, the only political outfits to walk out of Lok Sabha in solidarity with the protesting farmers during the presentation by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Today was the first ever digital budget of independent India with the speech of the finance minister lasting two hours.
Shiromani Akali Dal MPs Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal sloganeered at the start of the budget demanding the repeal of farm laws.
Both carried posters and flashed them for five minutes into the budget presentation that was attended by top BJP brass led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
RLP chief Hanuman Beniwal also joined the Badals in the protest and sloganeering and in the eventual walkout from the budget demanding withdrawal of agriculture reform laws.
The opposition benches looked thin with stalwart Congress president Sonia Gandhi absent. NC chief Farooq Abdullah was present and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav marked his presence briefly.
The farm agitation shadow loomed in the house at the start of the budget speech by the finance minister with the opposition countering the ruling side slogans.
It was “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Jai Shri Ram” versus “Jai Jawan”.
Trinamool Congress was the most aggressive during the budget presentation with MPs Saugata Roy and Kalyan Banerjee repeatedly taunting the finance minister every time she mentioned a politically sensitive issue including proposed disinvestment of strategic companies, private management of ports and government commitment to MSP.
The opposition MPs came together to hoot when the finance minister listed government’s commitment to higher procurement and shared data on record payments to farmers for wheat, paddy and pulses procurement between 2013 in UPA times and today.
Throughout the budget, opposition MPs kept flagging the issue of restoration of MPLADs, which stands suspended for two years due to Covid strains on the economy.
During the budget, Congress MPs from Punjab Gurjeet Aujla and Ravneet Bittu donned black clothing in solidarity with the agitating farmers. They also wore placards around their necks that said “Repeal farm laws that are killing the farmers”.
The overall moods in the house were sombre through the day as the finance minister listed government measures to reboot the economy, and inject it with vigour in the post COVID world.
PM Modi led frequent applause of the FM and later personally walked up to her and greeted her for presenting the first budget of this decade.