Nothing exceptional has happened. Over the years announcing sops before elections has become a practice in India. Every political party has indulged in such practice. So, Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in no way can be blamed for presenting an interim budget full with sops and with the promise to announce more after the elections. As a matter of fact by terming the interim budget as an ‘election manifesto of BJP,’ Mallikaurjun Kharge, leader of Congress party in Parliament has virtually handed over a potent weapon to the ruling party as his party was no different in this regard.
In 2009 while presenting the vote on accounts for the railways Lalu Prasad Yadav had announced 40 new trains. Mr. Kharge also followed his predecessor in 2014 when he got the chance to present vote on accounts for the same ministry. The then finance minister P. Chidambaram in 2014 while presenting the vote on accounts claimed that India’s growth rate was much higher than any other country. Piyush Goyal has only followed the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors.
So, it’s meaningless to attack the government on hiking the income tax exemption limit or directly transferring funds to farmers as they form the majority of electorate. The present day government in its own wisdom has tried to please this section of the society. But the moot question here is whether such steps will be able garner votes for BJP? More importantly introspection is needed to find out where our economy is heading due to such populist measures? Will such steps be able to cure India for poverty, hunger and illiteracy?
First, In the last five years the party has failed to bring ‘good days’ for the citizens as promised in 2014. Cracks are showing in its citadel. Recent loss in the Assembly polls in three Hindi heartland states has proved beyond doubt that BJP is no longer invincible even in its strongholds. To arrest the downslide in its popularity, BJP will have to think differently. Time now for the BJP leaders to realise that old formula will not work in 21st century. Today youth need jobs. Farmers need income. People need peace. So, playing the same old banal song will not provide any dividend.
Secondly, populism is good, but to a certain limit. If populism is practiced throwing all caution to the wind, it is bound to be counterproductive. This is exactly what is happening with the Indian economy. All tall claims made in the budget speech are contradictory. If inflation is under control at present, it is because of lower price of crude oil in the international market. Higher GDP growth rate can’t be any solace as it is very much dependent on service sector. One should remember that Chinese economy prospered as the country strengthened its manufacturing sector. But where is the roadmap to strengthen our manufacturing sector in the budget? Similarly, no efforts have been made to strengthen the agriculture sector. Why was the budget silent on irrigation projects?
Third, poverty and hunger will remain in India till the time our politicians refuse to look beyond electoral gains. Budget is a document to utilise the resources available in the country in best possible manner, it is not solely a tool to capture power. Once Indian politicians learn this very lesson, only then will our country progress. But, for now our reality is that nothing has changed or will be changed.