FM Jait­ley gives pop­ulism a miss

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - DK Singh let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

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.

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