28/02/2015 4:17 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

'Historic' Or 'Disappointing'? Jury Still Out On Union Budget 2015

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Arun Jaitley, India's finance minister, stands for a photograph outside the North Block of the Central Secretariat building before leaving to table the budget in parliament in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi diverged from a previously announced path to narrow India's budget deficit in an effort to spur faster growth in Asias third-biggest economy. Photographer: Graham Crouch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi effusively praised Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's Budget for the year 2015-16 on Saturday, calling it "progressive, positive, practical, pragmatic and prudent" but not many in Indian political circles shared his opinion.

Jaitley, delivering his first full-year budget since Modi's landslide election victory last May, said growth would accelerate to between 8 and 8.5 percent in the fiscal year starting in April.

Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati, speaking to reporters soon after Jaitley's Budget speech in Parliament, said his proposals "were not practical and did not reflect the aspirations of the common man or the poor".

"Budget is disappointing, they could have done much more," said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Supriya Sule.

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi questioned how jobs could be increased when the budget did not have any change in tax, there was an increase in service tax, and "negligible" increase in education expenditure.

"Nothing for science & technology, nothing for better teaching staff & research institutes," she tweeted. "Forgot about the demographic dividend?"

"Budget 2015 has a distinct focus on farmers, youth, poor, neo-middle class and the Aam Nagrik. It delivers on growth, equity and job creation," Modi tweeted.

"Budget is investment friendly and removes all doubts on tax issues. It assures investors that we have a stable, predictable and fair tax system," he added.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah meanwhile questioned the NDA government's move to pump in more funds to the MNREGA.

"I don't get it, if #MNREGA is a monument to failure why is more money being pumped into it? Something doesn't add up here," Omar tweeted.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget announcement said that the government at the Centre is committed to ensuring employment through MNREGA. "Our government is committed to supporting employment through MNREGA. We will ensure that no one who is poor is let without employment," Jaitley said.

"We will focus on improving the quality and effectiveness of activities under MNREGA. I have made an initial allocation of Rs 34,699 crores for this programme," he said.

Jaitley also announced that the government would allocate Rs. 5,000 crores to the existing MNREGA funds.

Modi had earlier pledged that he would ensure that the MNREGA is never discontinued.

"It is proof of the Congress' failure. After so many years of being in power, all you were able to deliver is for a poor man to dig ditches a few days a month," he said in Parliament yesterday.

Former Minister for Telecom and Member of Parliament, Milind Deora, said that despite BJP's impressive electoral victory in the general elections, the government has "failed to grab the bull by the horns" in its budget announcement.

"That said, congratulations to Arun Jaitley for a crisp presentation. I know that he is pro-reform & believe he makes a fine FM," he tweeted.

Bharatiya Janata Party leaders generously praised the budget, with Environment Minister Parkash Javadekar even calling it 'historic'. "It's of the poor, for the poor," said Javadekar.

Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said the budget places a lot of thrust on infrastructure, skill, innovation and girls' education. "Nayi Manzil sounds very interesting, 'Atal Yojana' Program needs to be celebrated across country," said Irani.

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said highest priority has been given to infrastructure for the first time in the nation's history. "Investment in infrastruture will boost employment opportunities, given priority to rural development and agriculture," said Gadkari.

(with agency inputs)