A populist, political budget ahead of Lok Sabha polls | Union budget | political budget | Narendra Modi

The loss of the Bharatiya Janata Party in three states in the recently held assembly elections was an indication of what was ailing the electorate. It was a wake up call for the saffron party, which since then has been on a course correction before it goes to the 2019 general elections. After announcing a 10 per cent quota for the economically backward in the upper castes, the government in its interim budget on Friday gave out sops for the middle class, workers and the farmers. Union minister Piyush Goyal presented an election budget where the BJP has tried to take control of the narrative ahead of the polls.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seated in the front row in Lok Sabha, thumped the table aloud as Goyal was presenting his maiden budget, announced sops after sops. At one point of time during the budget presentation, the ecstatic members of the treasury bench erupted in delirious chants of ‘Modi, Modi’. All the BJP MPs will now go to their respective constituencies with an assured sense of having got doles for the electorate.

The Modi government handed a major tax relief for nearly three crore tax payers as Goyal announced that those with income up to Rs 5lakhs would be exempted from the tax. This will benefit the middle class, especially almost all the new tax payees and first time voters starting out in their career. There will be over 10 crore new voters during the 2019 elections.

In sheer numbers, the budget will impact a huge number of people. “This budget will benefit three crore of middle class employees and 30-40 crore workers. Earlier schemes for farmers had benefited only 2-3crore, but now the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme will benefit over 12 crore farmers who own 5 acres or less than 5 acres of land,” Modi said after the budget. He added it was just a trailer as a new budget would be presented once he “returned to power” in Many 2019.

Under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme, marginal farmers will be paid Rs 6,000 per year. Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to get the benefit of this scheme. The programme would be made effective from December 1, 2018 and the first installment for the period upto March 31, 2019 would be paid during this year itself. This programme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 75,000 crore.

“In 2018-19 financial year, Rs 2,000 will be transferred to farmers’ accounts for four months before March, and in the financial year 2019-20, farmers will get Rs 6,000,” agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said.

This is an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers. This is also seen as an answer to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s promise of ensuring universal basic income if voted to power.

“Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs 6,000 per year. This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal installments of Rs 2,000 each. This programme will be funded by the Government of India,” Goyal said in his budget speech.

The government and the party hailed the scheme as a game changer, but the opposition said the money given is too little as it translates to merely Rs 16 per day, or Rs 500 per month, hardly a sop for the marginal farmers.

Another key scheme was the mega pension yojana, the Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Mandhan, for workers in the unorganised sector with monthly income upto Rs 15,000.

This pension yojana will provide an assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000 from the age of 60 years on a monthly contribution of a small affordable amount during their working age. It is expected that at least 10 crore labourers and workers in the unorganised sector will avail the benefit of the Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Mandhan within next five years, making it one of the largest pension schemes of the world.

The RSS-affiliated trade union, the BMS, welcomed the provisions made for the workers and tax payers.

The government and the BJP are now expected to hardsell the budget to the people by telling them that it has delivered.      

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