Amidst estimates of 6% to 7% fiscal deficit and Rs 1 lakh crore revenue deficit, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who holds the Finance and Planning Departments, will have very limited scope to address the core constituencies of the ruling partners Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress during his presentation of the second Maha Vikas Aghadi budget on Monday. The fall in revenue has increased his worries, as Pawar will be left with few options while presenting a please-all budget.
The cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday, discussed the present financial condition and budget proposals. The cabinet will meet again on Monday at 1 pm and clear Pawar’s budget proposals. Pawar will present the budget at 2 pm in the state assembly.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have slowed down the state’s economy in addition to natural calamities. Out of the revenue collection target of Rs 3,47,456 crore, the state has collected just Rs 1,88,542 crore at the end of January, 2021. This is 35 per cent less than the budgetary estimate and 21 per cent lower than the collection in the same period in the previous year.
Against this backdrop, Pawar is expected to lay emphasis on expediting infrastructure development, completing pending irrigation projects and allocating additional funds to health, police and education.
A Maha Vikas Aghadi minister told the Free Press Journal, “The finance minister has already hinted at some tweaking in the additional cess or VAT on fuel to corner the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre on rising prices. Agriculture has been a silver lining during the pandemic. Pawar may provide funds to increase productivity and production and value added projects. In order to counter BJP’s claim of Vidarbha and Marathwada being neglected, he is expected to announce not just fund allocation, but a few sops to attract investments.”
He said that announcements on handouts or some welfare and development schemes for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Schedule Castes (SCs) and tribals are expected. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had pressed for the same and reminded MVA’s commitment in the common minimum programme. Further, he will also propose development schemes for the Maratha community, which is pressing for the restoration of 12% quota in education and 13% in government jobs that has been stayed since September last year by the apex court.
Amidst the falling job opportunities during the ongoing pandemic and economic slowdown, Pawar is likely to propose measures to push skill development.