The Times of India
New Delhi

NEW DELHI: In the end, the FM did deliver on his threat to impose a tax on the super rich — 42,000-odd individuals with declared incomes of more than Rs 1 crore — which, going by affidavits scanned by the Association of Democratic Reforms, includes 315 crorepatis in the current Lok Sabha.

Yet, there was hardly an indrawn breath when P Chidambaram announced the 10% surcharge, perhaps because no one was keen to attract attention to being affected by the measure. Lok Sabha's crorepati club has doubled from 156 crorepatis in 2004.

But there was some action before the FM arrived. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was seated well before the benches filled up and some astute MPs were quick to get in a word or two with her. A state chief at daggers drawn with his CM touched her knee, a gesture seeking protection rather than attention.

The cameo before the main event was a telling reminder - if one were needed - about the real power centre in UPA without whose backing Chidambaram's confident espousal of growth would not be possible.

Chidambaram arrived on the dot at 11 am. He began speaking as parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath slipped in next to a now crowded bench that also seated agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and Sonia.

In comparison to railway minister Pawan Bansal who wound up his speech early due to protesting MPs, Chidambaram made sure he offered no provocation to states like Bihar, UP and West Bengal whose contingents are ever ready for a scrap.

Most of Chidambaram's speech left MPs unmoved as there were no giveaways or biases to be picked on. Current account deficit, FDI, FII and bonds left them cold. The allocations for health, education and welfare were only to be expected.

Chidambaram did hold out an olive branch for his bitter critic in BJP ranks Yashwant Sinha. The FM said he will consider the views of the standing committee headed by Sinha on the Direct Tax Code and work closely with him to usher in a new tax regime.

It is a private joke in political circles that the Sinha-Chidambaram bad blood is costing the economy a couple of percentage points. If the FM manages to repair relations, it will be a canny move.

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