File photo: Ahmed Patel. Photograph:( AFP )
WION's chief domestic correspondent Kartikeya Sharma spoke with the usually taciturn Congress leader Ahmed Patel after the budget. Patel gave his review of the budget, and also spoke of the controversy around the death of former union minister and Indian Union Muslim League national president E Ahamed -- his family alleged they were not allowed to see him at the government-run RML Hospital -- the Congress' alliance with the Samajwadi Party in UP, and Priyanka Gandhi.
Question: Sir, how do you rate this budget? Will it help the people?
Answer: No I’m not impressed with this budget. People expected lot from this budget. Poor people and businessmen had hope that this budget will do something for them but it didn’t. This budget is nothing but an exercise to cover the blunder of demonetisation. People expected big reforms in the income tax slabs but the benefits will not be more than 10 to 12,000 rupees. Farmers didn’t get anything. Famers were hoping that the government would write of their debt but it didn’t happen. It is a budget of promises and less on concrete action.
Q: The budget also focuses on political funding. It could be looked at as an attempt to do away with black money from the political arena?
A: Well an attempt has been made and we welcome it. The slab of 20,000 has been reduced to 2,000. We also want elections to become transparent. I don’t think much will come out of it.
Q: The BJP says the budget is for the poor, and they will benefit the most from it?
A: There is nothing for the poor. There is nothing for the workers. Yes, there are some benefits but government has already made its money through excise and petrol and diesel prices. This benefit too should reach people. These are small benefits.
Q: Then how would you rate this budget? How would you define this budget?
A: I will give this budget 3 out of 10. It is a routine budget and doesn’t help common man. This budget doesn’t give that message. People are still suffering from demonetisation. A dream was sold that money from rich people will flow down to the poor. The government sold a dream.
Q: Mr Patel, what exactly happened on Tuesday night at RML Hospital. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had to rush there and only then was the body (of E Ahamed) released...
A: I don’t know why hospital authority did this. We were informed after 10 pm by the family members of E Ahmad. We rushed to the hospital. The kids came from far away. They doctors behaved in a strange way. We went but were turned away. We wanted to know about the treatment. We were denied the information. The doctors should have consulted the family members. Real situation should have been informed to the family. There should be an enquiry and health ministry should find out what happen. Imagine what must be happening to common people. Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had to be there. Imagine the plight of those who don’t have political muscle.
Q: You have forged an alliance in UP. What makes you believe this alliance will succeed in UP now?
A: The decision was taken to forge the alliance to stop communal forces. We wanted to stop forces who want to divide the nation. We don’t want them to succeed in Uttar Pradesh. This alliance is not about the Congress but about UP. Uttar Pradesh will benefit from it.
Q: There was a tweet of yours on the party (and Priyanka). Lot was made out of it. What do you have to say on it?
A: I said what I had to say and the matter ends there.