FM Jaitley gives populism a miss
Finance minister Arun Jaitley sprang a surprise on Wednesday by presenting a budget that avoided populism in a poll season and laid thrust on cushioning the economy from the disruptive impact of demonetisation.
The opposition parties predictably saw no vision in the budget but what drew their grudging support was Jaitley’s push for transparency in political funding — he proposed to bring down anonymous cash donation from `20,000 to `2,000 per source and to amend the law to introduce electoral bonds that could be bought by donors from banks and redeemed in parties’ accounts.
Given the BJP’s electoral sweepstakes in five poll-bound states — including Uttar Pradesh that sent 71 party MPs to the Lok Sabha in 2014 — there was speculation and anticipation of a pleaseall budget. Even ruling party leaders had expected Jaitley to splurge on freebies to different sections of people in a year that could put Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity to test in the five states in February-March and in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh which go to the polls by the year-end.
But the finance minister didn’t waver. A shift to populism wouldn’t have served the PM’s development agenda and image.
Jaitley did make a pro-poor and pro-farmer pitch but didn’t offer any doles.