In a first, Delhi is likely to miss its date with budget today – a situation that has triggered the latest flashpoint between the Aam Aadmi Party government and the Centre. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has squarely blamed the Centre, calling it “hooliganism”. When Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena’s office said the Centre had concerns which were communicated to the government in time, Delhi’s new finance minister, Kailash Gahlot, accused the Chief Secretary of “hiding” the file.
That there will be no budget presentation tomorrow was announced by Mr Kejriwal early this evening. “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 tomorrow, the employees of Delhi government, doctors and teachers will not get their salary… This is out and out hooliganism,” he had added.
दिल्ली में कल बजट पेश नहीं होगा।
भारत के इतिहास में पहली बार ऐसा हुआ है कि कल Delhi Govt का Budget पेश होना था और आज शाम को केंद्र सरकार ने बजट पर रोक लगा दी है।
सीधे-सीधे गुंडागर्दी चल रही है।
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) March 20, 2023
Shortly after, a statement from the Lieutenant Governor’s office said Mr Saxena had approved the Annual Financial Statement with certain observations on March 9 and sent the file to the Chief Minister.
The Delhi government then sought the mandatory approval of the President, writing to the Home Ministry, which conveyed its observations to the Delhi government on March 17. “The LG Office is yet waiting for the file to be sent to it from the Chief Minister,” the statement added.
Mr Gahlot, who has been handling the finance portfolio since the arrest of Manish Sisodia, issued a statement late in the evening, saying the home ministry expressed concerns and refused approve the budget through a letter sent to the Chief Secretary on March 17.
“For mysterious reasons, the Chief Secretary of Delhi kept the letter hidden for 3 days. I learned about the letter only at 2pm today,” read the statement.
Mr Gahlot said he received the file at 6 pm today and by 9 pm, responded to the Home Ministry’s concerns “and submitted the file back to Delhi’s LG”.
“The role of the Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary of Delhi in delaying Delhi’s budget ought to be investigated,” he added.
The file was received at the LG secretariat at 9:25 pm and was sent back to the Chief Minister at 10:05 pm, after approval of LG, for further action as per law, the LG’s office responded.
Sources in the home ministry said clarification has been from the AAP government as its budget proposal had high allocation for advertisement and relatively low funding for infrastructure and other development initiatives.
Mr Gahlot has denied the charges. The total budget size was Rs 78,800 crore, of which 22,000 crore was earmarked for expenditure on infrastructure and just Rs 550 crore on advertisements, he said.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana accused the ruling Aam Aadmi Party of “intentionally stalling Delhi’s budget”.
“The LG, the home ministry, sought some answers, but the Chief Minister did not send the file back… Delhi’s budget is stalled only because of AAP, not the home ministry,” he added.
Like every year, the lion’s share of the budget is expected to go to the education and health sectors, which AAP gives primacy to. In the “Outcome Budget” presented in the assembly today, Mr Gahlot presented the government’s key achievements over the last year.
Mr Gahlot later tweeted the highlights, which had special focus on education, health and infrastructure..
#DelhiOutcomeBudget | EDUCATION REPORT:
📚98% & 97% results in 12 & 10
💡2 lakh students generated 41000 business ideas
🎥83% schools installed with CCTV
🏫11 new SOSE added
🇮🇳100% schools implemented Deshbhakti Curriculum
🧑🏻🏫90% schools marking the attendance online
— Aam Aadmi Party Delhi (@AAPDelhi) March 20, 2023
A crucial project to make Delhi roads traffic jam free- the Extension of Ashram-DND Flyover has been completed this year. To make conveyance safer for pedestrians, 4 footover bridges have also been constructed by the @ArvindKejriwal Govt. #DelhiOutcomeBudget
— Office of Minister Kailash Gahlot (@Min_KGahlot) March 20, 2023
In the health sector, the merits of our healthcare system are “recognised globally”, he said. The Arvind Kejriwal government’s “3-tier health system has provided free medicines, tests and health services to 2 lakh citizens daily, ensuring that quality healthcare reaches the most vulnerable,” his tweet read.
1,000 patients are treated daily in Delhi’s 515 mohalla clinics, 1,62,288 people avail services each day in 38 hospitals run by the government, he said.