BJP Shifts Loy­alty From Traders To Poor, Farm­ers, Dal­its & Trib­als

Bud­get aimed at vul­ner­a­ble sec­tions of so­ci­ety

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - RakeshMo­han.Chaturvedi @times­group.com

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-

CEN­TRAL EF­FORTS

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.

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