Was the Budget 2016-17 presented by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament on Monday an effort to shed its "Suit-boot ki Sarkar" tag, something which has often been used by the Opposition in the past?
What Budget 2016-17 said
The Budget that Jaitley presented extensively focused on the agriculture, rural and social welfare sectors seemed to have been directed at the criticism and it came out quite smoothly in the end.
The NDA government's politics behind this Budget has two objectives.
Balancing the pro-bullet train ideology with pro-farmer budget
First, with the agriculture sector facing a serious crisis because of shortage of rain and drought conditions, the rural economy has been hit and in various states, farmers are being pushed to take drastic steps. And since the farmers's buying power is taking a beating, the demand for machinery has gone down and a result, there is less enthusiasm among the industries to set up new factories in the rural areas and that is in turn, affecting the job market.
The Opposition, including the Congress, has often accused the Modi government of taking care of the poor farmers and only catering to the interests of the big businessmen. The humiliating loss in the Bihar Assembly elections last October has perhaps been the biggest eye-opener for the BJP and it is trying to correct the courses ahead of elections in West Bengal, UP and Punjab among others, scheduled over the next 12 months.
The Budget even saw Jaitley allocating Rs 38,500 crore for the MGNREGA, an important pillar of the rural employment scheme, despite his PM mocking it in the past. The effort is indeed directed at dealing with he perception about the "Suit-boot ki Sarkar", which is growing stronger and could deliver a blow in future elections. The Modi government made the best possible move to balance the bullet train project with a pro-farmer budget. And the fact that the Opposition can criticise this pro-poor budget only at its own peril will also make the BJP happy.
This Budget also a push to overcome the trust deficit
The second objective was to make up for the trust deficit that the Modi government seems to be facing in the wake of the controversies that have rocked India of late.
Following the serious criticism it faced over issues like beef ban, death of Rohith Vemula and the HRD minister's take on it in Parliament, JNU row and Jat agitation, the BJP leadership will feel apprehensive about losing connection with the grassroots and face bigger challenges in the next set of state elections. It hence chose agriculture to reconnect to India's soul that resides in the villages.
A revived agriculture sector will help the NDA, besides shedding its pro-rich image and earn economic benefits by creating demands at the grassroots which will push the economy forward, also send a signal to the electorate that it is equally concerned with the bottom layers of the society and not just happy to be a urban-centric party.