Sunday, Oct 02, 2022 | Last Update : 06:29 PM IST

  India   All India  02 Feb 2018  Budget 2018: Modi reaches out to poor to retain power

Budget 2018: Modi reaches out to poor to retain power

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Feb 2, 2018, 6:42 am IST
Updated : Feb 2, 2018, 6:43 am IST

Modi had stormed to power with his reform agenda and promises to do away with social sector schemes like MNREGA.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the Union Budget ‘development-friendly’ and said it would strengthen the vision of a ‘new India’. (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the Union Budget ‘development-friendly’ and said it would strengthen the vision of a ‘new India’. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: With seven state elections slated to be held this year, and growing indications of voters’ disenchantment with the BJP, especially in rural India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last full-fledged Budget is designed with eyes firmly on the restless underprivileged and angry farmers.

Stepping up on the agenda of “empowering the poor”, finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday unfurled, with aplomb, one of the biggest ever health care schemes that will cover, he said, nearly 50 crore underprivileged people.

The BJP hopes that its National Health Protection Scheme, which aims to offer health insurance of up to Rs 5 lakh per year to 10 crore poor families, will draw them towards the party.  With 30 per cent of India’s population living below the poverty line, “the largest government-funded health insurance scheme to be implemented anywhere in the world” will go a long way in easing the heavy debt families incur because of their healthcare bills.

The government believes that its anti-rich and pro-poor demonetisation policy helped it record an unprecedented victory in Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. It was being predicted that the UP polls verdict would drive the government to loosen its purse strings in the run-up to the 2019 general elections. “That’s what is happening,” a senior BJP leader said.

While the urban India remains tilted towards Modi-led BJP, it’s the rural belt that is rapidly shifting towards the Congress. Majority of India’s 1.25 billion population lives in the countryside, and winning rural voters, the BJP has realised, is the key to return to power at the Centre and in the states.

This lesson was driven home by rural Gujarat. While urban Gujarat voted for Mr Modi in the Assembly elections, angry farmers voted against him. Huge sops have been given to placate the angry farmers.

Farm-distress led to farmers’ protests across the country. This Budget promises to raise the minimum price offered to farmers for crops, while investing heavily in agricultural markets across India. More money has also been allocated for irrigation projects, and state governments have been directed to purchase extra solar power generated by farmers using solar-powered pumps.  

“This budget is farmer friendly, common citizen friendly, business environment friendly and development friendly. It will add to ease of living,” Prime Minister Modi said after the Budget announcement.

Mr Modi had stormed to power with his reform agenda and promises to do away with social sector schemes like MNREGA. The government, which was being perceived as a “suit boot ki sarkar”, has clearly taken a socialist turn.

Mr Modi’s last Budget clearly indicates that he is not in a mood to woo his core votebank, the middle class, anymore. The Budget’s tilt towards rural India has further fuelled speculation that Lok Sabha polls could be advanced and held with the Assembly elections scheduled for end of this year.

Speculation of early Lok Sabha polls also gained momentum with the BJP’s complete rout in its desert citadel - Rajasthan.

In a severe blow to the BJP and chief minister Vasundhara Raje, the party lost the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats and suffered a humiliating defeat in the Mandalgarh Assembly berth.

The defeat has shocked the BJP and party spin doctors felt that the only way to retain the state is to make “Modiji the mascot yet again.” And this, they claim, can be done “only if we advance the Lok Sabha”. With Mr Modi’s popularity remaining intact, they say, people will vote for the BJP in both Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

Same is the story in Madhya Pradesh where the Congress is rapidly gaining ground. “A stand-alone Assembly polls might just help Congress regain the state,” a senior BJP functionary claimed.

Tags: narendra modi, union budget 2018-19, arun jaitley
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi