Delhi budget to be presented today


Delhi: The Delhi government will present its annual Budget on Wednesday after the Union home ministry signed off on it, capping several hours of intense drama that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal labelled an “unprecedented constitutional crisis”.

The go-ahead appeared to draw the curtain on a fresh impasse between the state and Centre that delayed the Budget presentation, scheduled for Tuesday, with the approval from the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) awaited for the fiscal document till the eleventh hour.

While the Union government flagged procedural concerns that it said the Delhi had not addressed, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal accused the Centre of “interfering” with the Budget.

“Whatever it (Centre) did was unconstitutional. They have no right to say or ask anything about the Budget. But we don’t want to fight. We satisfied their ego. They sent four points, we gave the answers to all four, and they passed the Budget without any changes. This shows that they could have passed it yesterday,” he said on the floor of the House, referring to the four queries the Centre raised about the document. “The Budget being stopped has created an unprecedented constitutional crisis in the Capital. The episode did not serve anyone,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Kejriwal also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to clear the Budget.

Delhi assembly speaker Ram Niwas Goel confirmed that the Budget will be tabled on Wednesday. “The next sitting of the Delhi assembly will begin at 11am on Wednesday, and the Delhi Budget will be presented during this session,” he said on Tuesday.

The LG’s office accused the state government of “malintent”.

“The Constitution provides that previous consent and approval of the President is required before laying the Budget in the legislative assembly. Fixing the date for the Budget presentation before seeking the President’s approval, in itself is wrong and shows malintent on the AAP government’s part,” said an official in the LG’s office who asked not to be named.

The events that unfolded over Monday and Tuesday served to underline the fissures between the elected Delhi government and Centre that have held up several projects and initiatives in the national capital over the past few months. This confrontation has led to the key 2021-22 excise policy being scrapped and two ministers being arrested over allegations that the AAP claims are fake.

Late on Monday, it emerged that the President had not approved the state Budget, prompting the AAP to accuse the Centre of blocking the document, even as it alleged that Delhi’s chief secretary and finance secretary of “sitting on the file” for three days and not passing on the MHA’s request for clarifications to the state government.

Chief secretary Naresh Kumar did not respond to requests seeking comment on the matter.

Finance secretary Ashish Chandra Verma said all the allegations against him were false.

The Budget document, Delhi finance minister Kailash Gahlot said on Tuesday, was sent for MHA approval on March 10. The ministry, he said, refused to approve the document through a letter to the chief secretary on March 17. “For mysterious reasons, the chief secretary of Delhi kept the letter hidden for three days. I learned about it only at 2pm on March 20,” Gahlot said in the assembly. The file, he said, was sent to him at 6pm on Monday, which was then forwarded to the lieutenant governor’s (LG) office at 9pm.

In a letter early on Tuesday, Kejriwal urged to Prime Minister Modi to “not stall” the Delhi Budget.

“This is the first in the last 75 years that a state’s budget has been stalled. Why are you upset with Delhiites? Please don’t stall Delhi’s budget. With folded hands, Delhiites urge you to pass their budget,” the chief minister said in the letter.

Later, senior ministers also said the Centre had “conspired” to stop the document from being tabled.

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