Congress members of Parliament (MPs), who were concerned about the political implications of the Union Budget, were assured by finance minister P Chidambaram that the proposed Food Security Bill and the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme would help them win people's support in the next general elections.
The minister, who met party MPs on Friday as part of a regular post-budget interaction, faced queries on how the Budget, the "last full budget" before general elections in 2014, was apparently devoid of big political sops. Next year's Budget will be a vote-on-account as elections are slated for May.
Allaying the concerns of 100-odd MPs who were present, Chidambaram is learnt to have said MPs should disseminate awareness among the public in their constituencies about the Food Bill and the DBT scheme.
Congress MP and party spokesperson P C Chacko raised the issue of political mileage of the Budget. The Budget, Chidambaram said, had already provided for Rs 10,000 crore for the Food Bill, (championed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi), which was over and above the Rs 85,000 crore allocated for the public distribution system. "Funds will not be a problem and anything more that will be needed will be provided," the finance minister said.
The second United Progressive Alliance government is hoping that these two schemes will bring the same political mileage that the farm loan waiver and the rural job scheme did for it in 2009.
Briefing MPs on the highlights of this year's Budget, Chidambaram also assuaged concerns about food inflation and plummeting growth rates. He explained that the measures for fiscal consolidation he had taken would yield results in a year. With several Union ministers also being present, the finance minister said he had already given directives to ministries to come up with timely plans for approval so that disbursements and spending was not left right to the end of the fiscal. "We need to ensure proper and quality spending."
Explaining the Budget fine print, he spoke about the plan and non-plan expenditure and what steps he had taken to give a fillip to manufacturing and production, which would help in controlling inflation and boosting growth.