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West Bengal budget appears to be aimed at general elections: BJP MLA

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Kolkata, Feb 9 (PTI) Economist and opposition BJP MLA in West Bengal Assembly Ashok Kumar Lahiri has claimed that the 2024-25 state budget placed in the House on Thursday seemed tailored for the upcoming general elections rather than focusing on the state's financial affairs.

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Participating in the budget discussion on Friday, he said it looked more like an election manifesto than giving a proper bearing on the income and expenditure of the state.

Drawing parallels with the hit song 'Kahin Pe Nigahen, Kahin Pe Nishana' from the film CID, Lahiri said though the budget proposals were apparently on the economic affairs of the state, it was really aimed at the Lok Sabha polls.

Stating that though it appears to be a fairytale budget with something on offer for everyone, he said it, however, does not say anything on increasing the state's earnings for building capacity to provide such largesse.

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He said the 'Lakshmir Bhandar' scheme, aimed at providing financial assistance to women from weaker sections of society, will itself entail an annual expenditure of Rs 12,000 crore.

He said while the allowance under the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme was increased by only 20 per cent to Rs 1,200 from Rs 1,000 for the SC and ST communities, for other categories, it has been doubled to Rs 1,000 from Rs 500.

State Agriculture and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay said financial assistance to the weaker sections acts as a catalyst for social sector advancement in a developing country.

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Supporting the budget proposals for 2024-25, he said with India being a developing country, there is nothing wrong with the Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal offering such social welfare schemes.

He said Banerjee has successfully taken the government to the doorsteps of the people for delivery of services and welfare schemes through outreach camps under the 'Duare Sarkar' initiative.

Claiming that the state's revenue has increased nearly five-fold since the 2010-2011 financial year, TMC MLA Debabrata Majumdar said funds for the welfare schemes like Lakshmir Bhandar are derived from the increased earnings.

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He said the 50-day job guarantee scheme announced in the budget and placed by Minister of State (independent charge) for Finance Chandrima Bhattacharya was its unique feature.

Opposing the budget proposals, BJP MLA Shankar Ghosh claimed that lack of job opportunities has led 28 lakh men and women of Bengal to work as migrant labourers in other states.

He said the state's economy was becoming paralysed owing to drying up of manufacturing sector investments.

The discussion on the state budget will continue on Saturday. PTI AMR MNB

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