Indian media gives a mixed response to Mukherjee's 'Aam Aadmi' budget

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New Delhi, July 7 (ANI): The General Budget presented by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee drew a mixed response in newspapers, which largely described the focus on "Aam Aadmi" (ordinary man) as an attempt to serve the "inclusive growth" poll-promise of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in its second innings at the Centre.

The Hindu, which carried "Massive Rural Spending To Spur Growth" as the lead news, observed in its editorial titled "Focus On Inclusive Growth": "The budget presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee focusses sharply on one part of the success story, that is, inclusive growth, even as its efforts to restore the economy to the path of high growth have not been so robust."

"Where the budget falls short is in the area of stimulating growth.... Yet, there is nothing in the budget that is particularly significant or dramatic enough to change the mood of uncertainty and pessimism that has gripped business and industry," the paper further pointed out.

"At a time when industry has been hit by the downturn, a measure of protection was considered necessary and the Finance Minister did not move towards that goal," it said.

The Asian Age, which led with "Big Budget To Feed Hunger For Growth", said in its editorial titled: "Pranab's Boost For Aam Aadmi": "Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is to be complimented for doing a savvy job in walking the tightrope between keeping his government's promise to the "Aam Aadmi" and rural India, while not neglecting other sections of society. In a way, he had something to offer everyone - from rural India, farmers, the unorganised sector, women, minorities, poor students, even Sri Lankan Tamils, the unemployed, the police and paramilitary forces, retired servicemen, and of course income-tax payers and corporate leaders."

The Pioneer lead read "Spender's Budget" and in its editorial, it said: "Good For Economy" sub-headed with "Pranab Risks Fiscal Deficit For Growth" opined: "In the best of times, Finance Ministers have found it difficult, if not impossible, to produce a 'please all' General Budget. Those who gave in to the temptation of extreme populism came a cropper and, as it happened during the second half of the 1980s, left the Government's coffers empty and the public exchequer broke. These are by no means easy times: The global economy is yet to show signs of responding to efforts to nurse it back to health and the national economy is just about afloat. Given these circumstances, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has done an excellent job of crafting a General Budget whose thrust is no doubt overly political without tripping on the thin line that separates populism from pragmatism. As a post-election exercise, Mr Mukherjee had to focus on the Congress's political agenda of governance, more so to consolidate his party's electoral gains and thus strengthen its chances in the coming State Assembly elections; to expect him not to do so would be both unfair and naove."

"Ministerial hope and official hype notwithstanding, what the Budget lacks is an over-arching vision that addresses the nation's aspirations by painting a big picture and listing medium and long-term goals which are not limited to clichis like 'halving poverty' and 'making growth inclusive' - everybody says it, so what's new?," the newspaper remarked.

"Pranab Focus On Rural Poor" was the lead news of The Tribune, which hailed the budget in its editorial "An 'aam aadmi' budget"

"All in all, this year's budget is a worthy blueprint for action. It marks a new thrust in welfare and rural upliftment. Though it falls short of the expectations on incentives for growth, it could well be a good springboard for action in future," the editorial states.

The Hindustan Times carried the lead news with the headline "Pranab Sells A Sop Story", and in its editorial, it said: "In your hands, not in your face" opined: "The initial let-down after the first budget of UPA II had more to do with unrealistic expectations than with any disinclination to reform the economy. Anticipation has been building up over the past five years, and Pranab Mukherjee - likely to be finance minister for the next five - was seen as taking a strong pro-reform stance in his maiden Budget for this government. The reforms are there, but not in your face."

Times of India's lead story "It's for you and for her", and its editorial said the Budget fell short of expectation. "The decisive mandate for the UPA was interpreted as popular approval of its mantra of growth-with-equity. This Budget will please the aam aadmi in the sense that it's stimulus-oriented, focused on consumption to sustain growth. But if budgets are about vision, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's exercise falls short. It pays lip service to private investment, a critical growth driver. But there's no big signal to spur private demand. Instead, the focus remains on counter-cyclical public expenditure, with private players given something of a sidekick's role, be it in infrastructure or e-governance." (ANI)

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