The Budget got over. Out of more than 40 major industrialists attending the budget viewing session organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), only three clapped in appreciation. The rest silently got up and went out of the room.
This incident explains the mood of the industry which was expecting much more from the finance minister, but ended up gritting its teeth and leaving with a sigh..
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At the Central Delhi hotel where CII’s viewing session was arranged, most of the industrialists entered into the tiny hall (where the screen was placed) at 11 am exactly. The atmosphere was sombre, and it was clear from the whispers and expressions that they were a little jittery.
Similarly, FICCI’s session – which was held at its Delhi headquarters only – saw bored industrialists taking their seats and having small discussions now and then with their colleagues.
As the budget speech began, a few industrialists starting taking notes while others listened intently to Finance Minister at the CII session. The beginning was all about the agriculture and rural sector, and the interest was largely absent.
However, there were number of industrialists here and there – like Ratul Puri, Chairman, Hindustan Power Projects with G V Sanjay Reddy, Vice Chiarman, GVK Power and Infrastructure Limited - who were seen involved in the animated discussion time and again as the speech went ahead.
Similarly, Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman, Hero Corporate Service Limited, was seen to be cheerfully discussing various issues with Shobana Kamineni, Executive Vice President, Apollo Hospitals, as there was hardly anything to sit up & take notice. A few other big guys were talking in hushed tones.
As Arun Jaitley expressed his intention to keep the fiscal deficit at 3.5%, Rahul Bajaj, Chairman, Bajaj Auto Limited, clapped with appreciation. Whereas, when Jaitley allotted his Rs 100 crore for celebrating birthdays Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Guru Gobind Singh, the industrialists were seen smiling at each other. The government has already started various schemes on Upadhyay’s name since its inception.
The announcement of 10% tax in addition to Dividend Distribution Tax – on the individuals earning sizeable dividends - made the industrialists look at each other sheepishly. The only time when they were seen nodding their heads in assertion with Finance Minister was when he talked about simplification and rationalisation of taxation.
A major industrialist of the infrastructure industry said with a smirk, “There is nothing for us here. Officially, we are all praising the government for its socialist priorities. Truthfully, we are highly disappointed with the budget.”
The government has repeatedly called for domestic investors to pick up the slack in investment efforts and the finance minister mentioned the same in his budget speech. However, the businessmen present at the viewing sessions preferred to remain mum when it came to investing money.
When the CII’s session got over, its President - Sumit Mazumder – was asked a question by a reporter if this budget was more for the people and less for the industry. He said: “I would say this is a progressive budget with growth in mind for the country. It is good for the country.”
By the time Mazumder came to giving this statement, all major industrialists – who attended the session – had left the room.