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'Why are you upset with people of Delhi:' Kejriwal writes to PM Modi after budget put on hold

Home Ministry said the Delhi government is yet to reply to concerns on allocations

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal | PTI

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has written to Prime Minister   Narendra Modi requesting him "not to stop the Delhi Budget." This comes as the presentation of the Delhi government's budget for 2023-24, planned for Tuesday, was put on hold.

"It is the first time in the country's 75-year history that a state budget has been stopped. Why are you upset with the people of Delhi," CM Kejriwal wrote in his letter to PM Modi.

Kejriwal had blamed the Ministry of Home Affairs for stopping the government's budget. In a clip shared by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on their Twitter account, Kejriwal, while speaking at News 18 programme on Monday, said the Centre was resorting to "hooliganism".

"This is the first time in the history of India... The budget of Delhi was to come tomorrow morning, but the Central government has put a stop to our budget. Delhi's budget will not come tomorrow morning," he told News 18 India during an interview. "From today, the employees of Delhi government, doctors and teachers will not get their salary... This is out-and-out hooliganism," he had added.

However, the Union Home Ministry has said that the Delhi government is yet to reply to the concerns raised by L-G VK Saxena regarding certain allocations. 

According to the ministry, the budget proposal had high allocation for advertisement and relatively low funding for infrastructure and other development initiatives. "The Lieutenant Governor, Delhi, had raised certain concerns of administrative nature on the proposed Budget, keeping in view the fiscal interest of the National Capital Territory on which MHA vide its letter dated 17.03.2023 has requested GNCTD to resubmit the Budget addressing these concerns for taking further action. The reply from GNCTD is awaited for last four days. For the benefit of the people of Delhi, the GNCTD should submit reply immediately."

However, Delhi Finance Minister Kailash Gahlot denied the Home Ministry's charges as lies. "The total budget size was Rs 78,800 crore, out of which 22,000 crore was earmarked for expenditure on infrastructure and just Rs 550 crore on advertisements," he said. "The allocation for advertisement was the same as in last year's budget."

He added that the MHA expressed some concerns on Delhi government's budget and refused to give it approval through a letter sent to the Chief Secretary on 17 March. "For mysterious reasons, the Chief Secretary of Delhi kept the letter hidden for 3 days," he added. 

"I learned about the letter only at 2 pm today... The file with MHA's letter was put up to me officially only at 6 pm today i.e. just the day before the budget was to be presented in Delhi Assembly. Subsequently, we have responded to MHA's concerns and submitted the file back to Delhi's LG, after CM's approval, at 9pm today. The role of the Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary of Delhi in delaying Delhi's budget ought to be investigated," he said.

According to sources in the lieutenant governor's office, LG V K Saxena approved the Annual Financial Statement for 2023-2024, with certain observations on March 9, and sent the file to the chief minister.

The Government of Delhi, thereafter, sought the approval of the President as mandated by law by sending a letter to the Home Ministry. The Home Ministry conveyed its observations to the Delhi government on March 17. The LG office is awaiting for the file to be sent to it from the chief minister.

According to LG office sources, Saxena flagged that "as against proposed Budget size of Rs 78,800 crore, the expenditure on Capital components is indicated at Rs 21,816 crore, which is only 27.68%.... Further, this also includes Rs 5,586.92 crore on account of loan repayment, which, if excluded will further reduce the Capital component to Rs 16,230 crore which is only 20% of the budget."

"Since Delhi is the country's capital and also a large metropolis in which need for creation and improvements of infrastructure is extremely important, the allocation for Capital projects does not appear to be sufficient," the LG said.

"It is noted that expenditure incurred by the Directorate of Information & Publicity as per the Revised Estimate 2022-23 is Rs 272.21 crore against the Budget Estimate of Rs 511.64 crore. However, the allocation for the Budget Estimate 2023-24 is Rs. 557.24 crore, which seems incomprehensible and unjustifiable," he further said.

He claimed that the entire potential under various central schemes has not been fully utilised by Delhi. "A case in example, the flagship scheme of Ayushman Bharat', has not yet been adopted by Delhi due to which CSS funds under health sector are not made available. The Union Territory needs to obtain all possible funds under Central Schemes to augment its resources and also to meet national goals," he said.

However, there is no word yet on when the budget will be presented. 

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