Budget can’t be merely a finance document, says Drabu

Moazum Mohammad

Jammu: Whether the PDP-BJP coalition runs its full course or falls midway will continue to provide grist to speculation mill but the mere fact that such a seemingly impossible alliance was cobbled together has been hailed widely in some circles. Haseeb Drabu was the key person to make it happen. Currently, he has another onerous task at hand: removing the tag of the “begging bowl” the state budget has come to be identified with.
“A major part of the budget will focus on restoring the dignity of the people and government of Jammu and Kashmir,” the 55-year-old former J&K Bank chairman told Kashmir Reader in an interview here Sunday.
“So far every finance minister, and even chief ministers, has said that we go with a begging bowl before the government of India. What does that mean? I want to change that. We have a case and a position. I don’t say we will generate resources in a year to our satisfaction but I want to do away with this culture of a begging bowl,” he said.
In a departure from the way the budget is viewed traditionally, Drabu said that from being a document relevant only for government’s functioning, he wants to use it to enlarge the “constituency of peace”.
“It can’t be a financial document only. It has to have relevance for all stakeholders and relevance for what’s happening on the ground,” Drabu said.
He is currently holding meetings and preparing his maiden budget, which would spell out the PDP-BJP coalition government’s vision for the state’s economic development.
Drabu joined PDP last year. He won his maiden assembly elections from Rajpora constituency in Pulwama district and was tipped to be finance minister soon after he joined politics. He also holds the portfolio of labour and employment and culture.
He has also worked in perspective planning division of the Planning Commission of India (now NITI Ayog). He was the editor with Business Standard and served as an economic advisor in Mufti-led PDP-Congress government.
Drabu said the six years of NC-Congress coalition government has left the state in a “complete mess”.
“The misgovernance is evident at every step. It was a totally disengaged government. There was no semblance of governance in any field whatsoever be it finance, security, development, planning or recruitments,” he added.
Asked how his plunge into politics has changed his perspective about the situation in the state, he said,
“At some level it’s all about policy making. The ground realities are very different from theory. I can say I gained a perspective into how economic policies that have an impact on ground can be formulated.”
“During campaigning, I met people and that made me much more human. I think that is where I see making a foray into politics changing my thought process,” Drabu said.
Along with BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, Drabu prepared the Agenda of Alliance the coalition government intends to follow for the next six years. PDP drew flak from several quarters for climbing down on its pre-election promises while agreeing on the Agenda of Alliance.
Drabu said the PDP did not have the mandate to “strengthen” the Article 370, as it had promised during campaigning, so it agreed to the status quo on the legislation which grants special status to J&K in the Indian constitution. Abrogation of the article is one of the key goals of the BJP, the others being a common civil code and construction of a Ram temple on the site of demolished Babri Mosque.
“We have our own political agenda and they (BJP) had their own. It took us time. We were not in a hurry to form the government or get into power. We looked at what would be workable in a fractured mandate. We either had to put everything in cold storage and form a government or arrive at some agreement,” he said.
“We chose the hard task by writing the common minimum programme. I don’t see it in terms of winning or losing. It’s how pragmatically we arrived at a consensus to be able to provide good governance in the state,” he said.