'Finding Nirmala': Congress mocks Centre as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman absent at pre-budget meet

Updated: Jan 10, 2020, 13:23 IST | mid-day online correspondent | New Delhi

Incidently, while Nirmala Sitharaman was absent, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar were present at Narendra Modi's pre-budget meeting.

Picture/ANI-Twitter
Picture/ANI-Twitter

New Delhi: The absence of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the pre-budget meet on Thursday raised some eyebrows in the opposition. The Congress took a shot the ruling BJP party on Twitter on Sitharaman’s absence in the meeting with economists and experts at the Niti Aayog that was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ahead of the presentation of the union budget.

The Congress said on its official Twitter handle, using the hashtag #FindingNirmala, suggesting to invite the finance minister in the next meeting.

Incidently, while Nirmala Sitharaman was absent, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar were present at the PM's pre-budget meeting.

The Congress tagged a tweet of the BJP that said the finance ministry has invited suggestions, from “Citizens from all walks of life” for the Union Budget 2020-21.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was not present as the Prime Minister met economists, private equity and venture capitalists, business leaders and agri experts at Niti Aayog and called for focussed efforts from all stakeholders to achieve the target of nearly doubling the size of the Indian economy to USD 5 trillion by 2024.

BJP replies to jibe

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party hit back at the opposition's dig at Sitharaman's absence at the pre-budget meet. The party took to their official Twitter handle in which they quoted Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Jawadekar, calling the Congress' comment ' sexist' and asked them to apologise for the remark. He also asked in the tweet, "Sonia Gandhi is the president of the Indian National Congress and a woman. Wouldn't she have agreed to such a comment?"

Where was Nirmala?

Meanwhile, BJP sources said Sitharaman was holding pre-budget meetings with party workers at the BJP headquarters at that time. She held four rounds of meetings with BJP leaders at the party headquarters here, taking feedback for the budget.

BJP working president J P Nadda, general secretaries B L Santhosh, Bhupender Yadav and Arun Singh were among those who attended the meeting. "The finance minister met various sections of the party for consultation. We are confident that a pro-people budget will be presented," Arun Singh said.

The four-party meetings attended by Sitharaman, included one each with BJP office-bearers, spokespersons, functionaries of various 'morchas' like those working with farmers, youth and women among others.

The idea behind these meetings is to seek suggestions for the budget from business leaders, farmer organisations, trade unions and professional bodies such as ICAI and others, party spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal said.

Agarwal, who is a spokesperson for economic issues and coordinating these meeting, said that 11 meetings have been planned, out of which seven have already been held at the party office.

"One meeting for each specific sector is being held, and the report of every meeting is being submitted to the party's working president J P Nadda," he said. Agarwal also added this exercise is being organised under the leadership of Nadda and the party's organisational general secretary B L Santhosh.

The series of meetings began on December 19 and will conclude on January 14. The party will have a comprehensive view from stake holders of all sectors, he said. The first budget in the second term of the Narendra Modi government will be presented on February 1. The Budget session would be held in two phases from January 31 to April 3. The first phase of the session will be from January 31 to February 11 and the second will be from March 2 to April 3.

(With inputs from PTI)

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