After state’s finance minister Dr Haseeb Drabu presented the budget for 2017-18 in Legislative Assembly with focus on micro-credit and operational efficiency, he probably made his longest budget speech. Hailed by the members of ruling dispensation to announce ‘systemic reforms’ into the existing system of the state, Dr Drabu was caught by his long time friend and political opponent, Devender Singh Rana with some uncomfortable questions.
A heavy weight NC lawmaker confronted budget proposal with a tough stand and called Drabu a ‘Dream Merchant’.
As it was Drabu’s third budget, so was the analysis of the Rana. Only, this time he euphemistically underlined the loopholes and unfulfilled tasks that were announced by Drabu during his previous budget sessions that include regularisation of 61,000 casual labours, commissioning Dal Development Board & Water resource department, privatisation of State Motor Garages, disbursing widow pension and addressing the issue of unemployment among youth. When Drabu’s budget document had no confirmed figure to give on unemployment, MLA Nagrota came up with astounding figures and statistics for the same.
Posing tough questions armed with facts and figures, Rana accused the economist of copying the content of the budget from the internet and even said that this has already been submitted by various other states.
Assailing the finance minister’s budget proposal, systematically, Rana accused him of ‘juggling the figures’ and eroding the values and aspirations of the people of state. He charged the finance minister of ‘incentivising dishonesty’ and bluntly termed the budget as ‘A Bundle of Lies’.
A business tycoon, Rana asked the former chairman & CEO of J&K Bank (1996-2002), not to fiddle with the autonomy of the Bank which is state’s premier financial institution. This is hit in response to Drabu’s equity proposal of Rs 530 cr.
He stressed the need for taking concrete steps and ‘stop dreaming’. He urged that immediate measures should be taken to get the state economy out of the morass and called for bringing legislation to counter the SARFESI Act.
Rana by his in-depth analysis put the government in a tight spot. When Drabu’s own party men did not come forward, BJP’s state president Sat Pal Sharma came to his recue. Later it prompted Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, who also holds the power portfolio, to give a written reply to the questions raised by Rana in the Legislative Assembly.
He did not leave Drabu even on power sector. He had asked if the government has approached the Centre to transfer Dul Hasti, Salal and Uri hydro power projects to the state as suggested by the Ranga Rajan Committee report and the round table reports.
In his written reply Dr Singh said that the government would actively pursue transfer of hydro projects from NHPC, as mentioned by the Finance Minister in the power budget speech for the year 2015-16.
What remains to be seen is whether or not the ruling PDP-BJP coalition would be able to deliver according to its promises and prove Rana wrong of terming the FinMin as ‘Dream Merchnat’.
– Jibran Nazir