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Modi more keen to placate angry rural voters than middle class

Last Updated : 01 February 2018, 17:36 IST
Last Updated : 01 February 2018, 17:36 IST

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As the Budget 2018 was unveiled, Prime Minister Modi  looked more keen to placate angry rural voters and create jobs than please the BJP's traditional middle-class supporters before the Lok Sabha elections next year.

Though Finance Minister Arun Jaitley went at length to say that the middle class too would beneft, the BJP's problems with the rural sector appeared overwhelming. Even BJP insiders said the frantic efforts to address the discontent over falling farm incomes was all too apparent as news trickled in about the party's loss in Rajasthan bypolls to the Lok Sabha and the state Assembly.  

A number of schemes, including what Jaitley called 'Modicare' for the world's largest healthcare insurance scheme to cover 500 million people, were seen as coming ahead of the eight states polls this year and another four in the first half of 2019, alongside the general elections.

Modi hailed, of course, his government's last pre-poll budget as a "big step" towards achieving Ease of Business and Ease of Living.

But even  the prime minister's first post-Budget reaction was unusually long, which bared the underlying political worries. "This budget is farmer-friendly, common citizen-friendly, business environment-friendly and development-friendly," Modi said in his first reaction after Jaitley presented the Budget in the Lok Sabha.

"Along with ease of doing business, there is also a focus on ease of living... This Budget has devoted attention to all sectors - ranging from agriculture to infrastructure," he said.

Several BJP leaders and saffron chief ministers of the states emphasised that the sops announced for farmers will bring in development in the rural and the agriculture sectors.

Other BJP leaders said the Budget ensured huge delivery on the farm sector, "as per our manifesto". They pointed to the announcement that various crops in the coming kharif season will also get a 50% margin of MSP over the cost of production, just like for rabi crops so far.

The second big takeaway, they said, was the new National Health Protection Scheme, which will offer universal health cover to the tune of Rs 5 lakh to nearly 40% of the population which cannot buy healthcare insurance.

Third, this Budget has given a big fillip to employment generation by giving numerous incentives to the MSME sector, as well as incentives for industry in general for employing a new workforce.

The BJP leaders thought that the MSME sector, being the real engine for growth, will benefit by lowering of corporate tax to 25%, which will encourage major investments in this sector, which in turn will lead to job generation.

BJP chief Amit Shah said the Budget gives new wings to aspirations of the poor as he cited measures aimed at giving a boost to farmers, infrastructure, rural sector and small and medium enterprises.

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Published 01 February 2018, 14:52 IST

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