Will budget prove a clincher?
Modinomics is not very difficult to understand. The Budget 2018-19 presented by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has adopted a middle path that has...
Modinomics is not very difficult to understand. The Budget 2018-19 presented by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has adopted a middle path that has an overwhelming focus on rural India, which is expected to provide a much-needed, and long elusive, support to the farm sector.
The flagship Modicare programme announced by the Finance Minister came as a stunner, in fact. However, given its magnitude, the massive Rs 5 lakh per family health insurance scheme, which will cover 10 crore families – ostensibly the world's largest healthcare scheme – will be a test for both the Modi government and the Opposition.
A deeper study indicates that Jaitley has worked out the Budget keeping in view not only elections to the eight States but also hinted at early General Elections. The fact that it has focussed attention on farmers, students and Modicare for the poor could be surmised as a sure-shot indication of the Centre’s bid for an early elections.
In doing a thorough professional job and working to the minutest macro level, he has sounded the poll bugle loud and clear. And that spells danger to the opposition parties considering that if the scheme is implemented in its projected totality then its influence on the voters would be mind-boggling.
There has been a pre-conceived systematic approach. To ensure that the message reaches out to the right audience (read it as the rural electorate), Jaitley took to Hindi when highlighting about agriculture/farm sector. He also targeted the small and the medium businessmen by reducing the corporate tax. It is a different thing altogether the Modi sarkar left the genuine tax payer disappointed. Understandably, the logic is that if tax slabs are raised, it would have taken out a big chunk out of tax net. It is, perhaps, the Modi version of Indira Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao.
While this is the gist of the 2018 Budget, there is no denying that the BJP has borrowed the idea from the health scheme from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and improved upon it. However, the Telugu-speaking States have been left high and dry. Even more preposterous is that the Centre has not even touched upon the proposals forwarded by the two State governments! One does not know if this is meant to send across any political messages with such a ‘dumping’ exercise.
Even as the Telangana State government is trying to bite the bullet, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is fretting and fuming, and for obvious reasons. The Budget does even make passing references about Railway zone and funds for Amravati, both of which were sought by the Naidu government.
To make matters worse, metro rail project in Bengaluru is to take shape while metro proposals in Amravati will not chug off, at least, not in the near future. A possible reason for this is that Naidu is an ally and the BJP is bent on regaining lost glory in Karnataka where it hopes to use Yeddyurappa to dislodge the Congress government.
What should not miss the eye is that irrespective of when general elections will be held, the fact of the matter is that Karnataka will go to polls, along with Odisha. Apparently, the reading is that Andhra Pradesh can wait when compared to Karnataka.
The TS government has expressed its unhappiness over the raw deal meted out to the new State. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has decided to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this month and take up the gross neglect with him.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister in an instant reaction has called upon his ministers and party MPs to express their displeasure over the Centre’s ineptness in rising to the cause of the residuary State. What has further irked him is the contention of State BJP president K Haribabu that one cannot begin construction of a house by keeping the entire money in the banks.
It is true but then unless one has some liquid cash, no work can begin. Where is it, they all wonder. Adequate amounts should be made available to the State at periodical intervals.
The TDP initially appeared to be caught in a Catch-22 situation. At one point of time, it was said that it was mulling over what it should do next. Should it continue with the alliance and let bygones be bygones. If that happens, it may benefit YSRCP, politically. If it severs ties with BJP, then there is every possibility that the ‘partner’ may align with YSRCP.
But BJP, it is learnt, has made it clear that they are not in a hurry to walk out of the alliance with TDP though a small group of state leaders like Somu Veeraju and D Purandeswari are trying to paint a picture that TDP is not allowing them to grow in the State.
The BJP national president Amit Shah has made it clear to the AP BJP leaders that they should maintain restraint and in case the TDP precipitates the matters, then the national party would take a call on what is to be done.
The TDP, which is to hold a crucial meeting on Sunday, is also likely to adopt a wait and watch policy if the thinking in Naidu’s camp is any indication. In fact, speculations are rife that the BJP has told Naidu that they would come up with certain announcements after the Odisha and Karnataka elections are over.
Meanwhile, Naidu may meet the Prime Minister with a wish-list. The one thing that is clear is that neither the BJP nor TDP wants to make the first move with regard to ending the alliance. BJP leadership wants AP leaders to show restraint and not make comments that would create a wedge between the two. The general presumption is that Modi is still inclined to continue the friendship with TDP.
As far as Telangana is concerned, the BJP wants its state unit to continue and try to emerge as number two party in the state. What is to be done if they continue to fail to achieve the target is something the national party will decide later. Amit Shah is said to have told the TBJP leaders to go to people and explain how the Centre has helped the state government.
As regards General Elections, a clear picture will emerge only after the results of Karnataka and Odisha elections. Modi has been angling for simultaneous polls for quite some time and much before the ‘advice’ of President Ramnath Kovind. If BJP captures the two States, there is a possibility that General Elections will be in October or November.
There is a hitch, though. They have tasted power in Karnataka, but in Odisha it looks a seemingly improbable task to even dream of ousting the firmly ensconced Naveen Pattnaik.