Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman got unique policy suggestions in her first interaction with industry after presenting her Budget. While lauding her big disinvestment target of over Rs 2 trillion for the next fiscal year at a gathering organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an industry executive observed public sector assets were not really for sale but were being “recycled”. “You should call it a department of recycling so that there is a positive twist to the government’s intent. Even my father keeps asking me why government companies are being sold,” the executive quipped. It was followed by a silent nod by the finance minister, who moved on to the next question in a jiffy.
Over the past almost six years, it has been rare for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s address on the same day in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. However, this time, he will speak on the motion in the two Houses the same day, that is, Thursday. Opposition sources suggested this change might have something to do with the Delhi Assembly polls, which are on Saturday. The Opposition has moved over 400 amendments to the motion. In the past six years, there have been two occasions when the Opposition forced amendments to the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha. But its numbers have dwindled since then and it is not in a position to push through the amendments. The two Houses will take up a discussion on the Union Budget next week, on the last two days before the Budget session takes a pause on February 11, to meet again on March 2.
Mixing up dates
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Bhupender Yadav on Tuesday opened the discussion on the motion of thanks to the President’s address. Yadav said the opposition, particularly the Congress, questioned the government’s implementation of Aadhaar and goods and services tax (GST). The Congress’ Jairam Ramesh reminded Yadav that it was Narendra Modi who as Gujarat chief minister had first questioned Aadhaar and GST. Yadav said the opposition had launched the “award wapasi” campaign in 2014, just as it was now covertly sponsoring protests against the amended Citizenship Act. However, what the BJP terms the “award wapasi” campaign took place in 2015. He said the Congress questioned “the surgical strikes of 2017”. The Uri surgical strikes took place in 2016. He repeatedly said the government would mark the hundredth birth anniversary of Bal Gangadhar Tilak this year, and eventually corrected himself and said it would be the freedom fighter’s hundredth death anniversary.