In what many felt was merely an action of tokenism to please various constituencies, finance minister Arun Jaitley launched 28 schemes and programmes with allocation of Rs 100 crore each in his maiden budget.
The 28 schemes and programmes ranging from girls' education, rural entrepreneurship, Kisan TV to climate adaptation fund and national mission on pilgrimage rejuvenation. The focus areas of these schemes clearly show that Jaitley probably wanted to touch upon as many subjects as possible that found mention in the BJP's election campaign in the run up to the 2014 general election. For instance, Rs 100 crore has been given for ghat development and beautification of river fronts in several cities, including Varanasi, which is PM Narendra Modi's constituency.
Some of the other schemes in the Rs 100 crore club include 'Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana' for tribal welfare, 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana' for girl child, rural youth village entrepreneurship programme, virtual classrooms, promotion of good governance, community stations, metro projects in Lucknow and Ahmedabad, madrasas modernisation, agriculture research institutions in Assam and Jharkhand and an 'Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund'.
Programmes to promote leadership skills, to set up a National Centre for Himalayan Studies and to encourage organic farming in northeastern states were also launched under the Rs 100 crore allocations each.
The finance minister may have thought that numerous Rs 100 crore schemes are more likely to win over people across constituencies but the schemes failed to impress the Opposition which termed the attempt of rounding up of fund allocation to Rs 100 crore as an exercise that smacks of tokenism and lacks focus.
"A budget can't be a laundry list of assorted 100-crore sops to various constituencies. Where's the vision and a clear policy direction?" asked Thiruvananthapuram MP and former Union minister Shashi Tharoor.
"Can 100 crore be a serious figure for rural youth entrepreneurship in a country where 67% of the population is rural and 65% is young (under35)? What will Rs 100 crore achieve for metros in Lucknow and Ahmedabad when one line of Mumbai Metro cost Rs 4,321 crore and the Delhi Metro costs Rs 204 crore per km?"
He even took a dig at "NDA priorities" stating that: "100 crore for 'beti bachao/beti padhao' versus 200 crore for Patel statue in Gujarat. I suppose for BJP neither beti (daughter) nor murti (statue) has a voice," Tharoor said.
Jaitley's budget gave an indication of the new nomenclature that is likely to prevail in the new NDA government. It introduced schemes under names of leaders Madan Mohan Malviya, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Shyama Prasad Mukherji while doing away with the Nehru-Gandhi nomenclature.
Jaitley launched the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Urban Mission, Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya New Teachers Training Programme and Jai Prakash Narayan National Centre for Excellence in Humanities.