Kerala Finance Minister won’t resign over budget ‘leak’

Thiruvananthapuram, March 3 (IANS) State Finance Minister Thomas Issac on Friday ruled out stepping down after the Congress-led opposition demanded his resignation over the leak of his budget speech on social media.

The goof-up occurred after the budget highlights prepared by his office for easy reference reached the hands of the media, a little after Issac began his budget speech.

“This should not have happened. The secrecy of the budget has not affected as 30 documents associated with the budget were intact. The question of resignation does not arise,” Issac told reporters soon after he came out of the assembly.

Issac began his speech at 9 a.m and, by 9.50 a.m., proposals in the budget that he was yet to read out were flashed on TV channels and appeared on social media.

By 11.20 a.m., Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala raised the issue, holding up copies of what he said was the budget speech which was leaked on social media. Unhappy with the response of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who said the matter would be looked into, the Opposition boycotted the budget and walked out of the house.

Later, speaking to reporters, Chennithala said the sanctity of the budget has been lost and it was now just a bunch of papers.

“We are meeting Governor P. Sathasivam to brief him about this mistake. This budget is not even worth the value of waste paper as budget has a certain amount of sanctity, which has gone out of the window,” said Chennithala.

Senior Congress leader V.D. Sateeshan pointed out that the morning’s (Friday) edition of vernacular newspaper “Metro Vartha” carries certain tax concession announcements and the words are exactly same as those in Issac’s speech.

“It was out at 9.50 a.m. and technically speaking only after the minister completes his speech, should the details of the budget come out. We will seriously look into what went wrong,” said State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs A.K. Balan after a meeting with the Chief Minister at state party headquarters.

Former State Finance Minister K.M. Mani, who has presented 13 state budgets, told reporters in the assembly that this budget should be treated as null and void.

“The Chief Minister should ask Issac to quit and then appoint a new Finance Minister, who should present a new budget, as what Issac presented has no value at all as its sanctity has been lost,” said Mani.

Lone BJP memeber in the assembly, O. Rajagopal said: “This goof up could possibly have happened because there is a serious difference of opinion between Vijayan and Issac and they do not have the best of relations.”

Veteran legislator P.C. George, currently an independent legislator said he has been a legislator since 1980 and this is one of the best budgets he has seen.

“This leak does not mean anything and in the best interests of the state, Issac should not quit over this because nobody knows about finances like he does. There is not a single suitable candidate who is fit to be the Finance Minister, at a time when the state finances are grim,” George said.

–IANS

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