BJP Shifts Loyalty From Traders To Poor, Farmers, Dalits & Tribals
Budget aimed at vulnerable sections of society
New Delhi: The Union Budget reflects the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s attempt to shed its image of being primarily a traderupper middle class party to one that cares for farmers, the rural population, the poor and the underprivileged. This was made clear when finance minister Arun Jaitley said the benefits of demonetisation would accrue to the poor and underprivileged, farmers and those living in villages. The ‘Transform, Energize and Clean India’ agenda emphasised in the Budget is aimed at the vulnerable sections of society. The ten themes that showed the focus area of the gov- er nment were aimed at these strata of society.
This marks a clear shift in BJP’s image of being one that protected the interests of traders, the business class as a whole and the upper middle class. When the Narendra Modi-led government was formed in 2014, Congress had projected it as a pro-corporate entity that only worked for the benefit of the rich. There appears to be a conscious move to court the rural populace, the poor, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Even the emphasis on checking tax evasion, digitisation, discouraging cash transactions beyond Rs 3 lakh and bringing the non-salaried into the tax net leaves little doubt about the party’s changing priorities. Traders would be most affected by the measures.
“For several decades, tax evasion for many has become a way of life,” Jaitley said in his speech. The Budget minces no words in stating that it is the non-salaried class (largely businessmen) who are the biggest tax evaders in this country. Jaitley has also rewarded the honest tax payer by attempting to increase the tax base.
“Demonetisation seeks to create a new ‘normal’ wherein the GDP would be bigger, cleaner and real,” Jaitley said, adding that though this measure was disruptive, it sought to change the “retrograde status quo”. He said the more resources that demonetisa-
tion would bring to the government coffers would help it in increasing expenditure for the welfare of the poor.
The budget reiterates the government’s efforts to provide a clean administration, ending discretionary quotas, favouritism and blanket entitlements. Jaitley said the government aims at bringing a “transformative shift” in governance and a move from an informal economy to a formal economy.
The Budget underlined the government focus on affordable housing for the poor, more credit to farmers (agro credit target set at Rs 10 lakh crore for 2017-18) and MSMEs, welfare of Dalits and tribals, doubling farmers’ income under MGNREGA, 100% electrification of villages by May 1, 2018, and livelihood to the rural poor.