Indian media: New budget divides opinion

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Will Mr Chidambaram's budget boost the economy or burden his successor?Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Will Mr Chidambaram's budget boost the economy or burden his successor?

The interim budget presented in the parliament by Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram ahead of the general elections is extensively analysed by the media, with commentators divided on whether the new measures will help revive the economy or just increase the financial burden on the next government.

Most papers are focusing on the announcement that indirect taxes on cars and mobile phones will be cut and that students will no longer have to pay interest on educational loans.

The Hindu interprets the move as an attempt by the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to "tap into a new voter base".

The daily writes that Mr Chidambaram is targeting "key middle-class constituencies" and argues that UPA's financial statement signals "a clear shift" from the rural common man to "young and urban voters", considered to be the support base of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"Chidambaram romances BJP base," agrees The Times of India in a headline.

"Grabbing his last chance to please voters before the general elections, P Chidambaram on Monday cut excise duties on a range of consumer goods and cars, deft tweaks that could lift consumption and boost industry but leave his successor with plenty of headaches," warns the Hindustan Times.

The paper explains that the next government might find itself with "much less revenue".

The Indian Express also predicts "economy headache" for the next administration, adding that it may have to "raise taxes sharply to finance capital expenditure to boost growth".

Members of India's business elite, however, seem happy with the new budget.

Writing in the Business Standard, Subir Gokarn, former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, says that the finance minister has given "a clear outline for a national economic policy agenda, regardless of which party or coalition is entrusted with the responsibility of implementing it".

"For industry, the two issues of concern were revival of growth, particularly manufacturing, and fiscal consolidation. The interim budget delivers on both fronts," says Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry, in an article in The Indian Express.

According to him, the budget "sets a solid foundation for the next government's finances".

AAP reassures big business

Staying with national news, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal met top industry leaders in Delhi on Monday in an effort to dispel perceptions that his party has an anti-business policy, the NDTV website reports.

As chief minister of Delhi, a post from which he resigned last week, Mr Kejriwal increased subsidies for electricity and water, overturned an earlier decision to allow foreign direct investment in retail, and accused a leading industrialist of creating an artificial gas shortage - actions that have alarmed the business community.

"We are not against capitalism; we are against crony capitalism… It is a wrong perception that AAP is against business," the NDTV report quotes Mr Kejriwal as saying at the meeting.

Superbugs in the Ganges

Meanwhile, a study has found that the Ganges, India's holiest river and a major pilgrimage destination, is teeming with deadly superbugs, The Times of India reports.

The study by a team of British and Indian experts found that during the pilgrimage season in May and June, "levels of resistance genes that lead to superbugs were about 60 times higher than at other times of the year".

And finally, the Archaeological Survey of India has started digging inside the Old Fort in Delhi to explore the possibility that a site mentioned in the Hindu epic Mahabharata may have existed at the spot, the print edition of the Deccan Herald reports.

"If artefacts from the ancient period are found, the excavated remains will significantly contribute to archaeological findings," the report quotes an official as saying.

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