Gujarat finance minister Vajubhai Vala is to Gujarat
Assembly what Sachin Tendulkar is to Indian cricket
these days. Speculations about their retirement continue
unabated but they continue to play their innings
So, when Vala presents his 18th state budget in Gujarat
Assembly on Friday morning, the buzz is going around
that this will be his last budget and the five-time MLA
is planning to retire from active politics.
Vala will break his own record of presenting the maximum number of budgets in
the state assembly. This being a poll year, the buzz is that he may not be as
harsh in levying new taxes as he has been in the last five years.
Vala had presented the budget for the first time in 1996-97 when the budget size
was Rs12,252 crore. The budget size increased to Rs80,694 crore in 2011-12. The
size of the budget is expected to be in the region of Rs90,000 crore to Rs92,000
crore on Friday, which would mean an approximate increase of eight times over a
The annual plan size is also expected to be in the region of Rs43,000 crore to
Rs45,000 crore, as against Rs37,152 crore in current year. Developmental
projects announced by the CM during the Sadbhavana fasts are also going to be a
part of the budget. The announcements totalled a staggering Rs42,000 crore, of
which, a large chunk has been included in the budget.
While officials remained tightlipped, sources said that sops in the form of a
cut in electricity duty and reduction in VAT rates on some items were likely to
be announced. "Vala has to do a tightrope walk between fiscal sops and financial
discipline, particularly considering that the state's debt has zoomed in the
recent years," said an official.
Also on the cards, say officials are announcements targeting the social sector,
mainly health, education and rural development. The budget is also likely to
have sops for Scheduled Tribes (ST). Demands made by farmers, including
increased subsidy on drip irrigation system, power connections, among others are
also expected to be announced in the budget.