Around the same time Prime Minister Narendra Modi met economists and others for pre-Budget suggestions, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday separately interacted with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, giving ammunition to the Opposition to attack her absence from the event.
“What is going on here? Finance Minister indisposed?" Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said in a tweet that shows photograph of the PM’s meeting. “Where is the finance minister? Or has the duo (Modi and home minister Amit Shah) forgotten they have one,” he tweeted.
The finance minister's office replied: “Sir, the minister has already met economists on December 20 as a part of the pre-Budget consultations.” At its interaction with Sitharaman at the party's national headquarters in the afternoon, the BJP expressed confidence that a “pro-people” Union budget will be presented on February 1.
The BJP, under the leadership of general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh, had held month-long consultations with different stakeholders on the Budget. Sitharaman held four rounds of meetings with BJP leaders for their feedback from the consultations.
BJP working president JP Nadda, general secretaries Santhosh, Bhupender Yadav and Arun Singh, and party's spokesperson on economic affairs, Gopal Krishna Agarwal were among those who attended the meeting.
The four meetings attended by Sitharaman, included one each with office bearers, spokespersons, and functionaries of various “morchas”.
“Prime Minister Modi has been running a government dedicated to people’s welfare. This is the agenda of the government and that of the party as well,” Singh said.
The BJP has been holding a series of meetings with various stakeholders, including business leaders, farmer bodies, and trade unions, as part of its per-budget dialogue, Agarwal said.
The idea behind these meetings is to seek suggestions for the budget from business leaders, farmer organisations, trade unions and professional bodies such as ICAI and others, he said.
Agarwal said 11 meetings had been planned, out of which seven have already been held at the party office. “One meeting for each specific sector is being held, and the report of every meeting is being submitted to the party’s working president J P Nadda,” he said.
The series of meetings began on December 19 and will conclude on January 14.
The Budget session would be held in two phases from January 31 to April 3. The first phase of the session will be from January 31 to February 11 and the second will be from March 2 to April 3.