New Delhi, Jan 29: It won't be wrong to call the upcoming Union Budget 2018 an exercise towards elections rather than finances.
After all, the Narendra Modi government won't leave any stones unturned to win a series of Assembly elections in states (eight to be precise) slated in 2018 and the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
In order to emerge victorious in these elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has to win back the confidence of the rural voters and small businesses which of late have been miffed by various anti-farmer policies and introduction of the complex and controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The all-important Budget session 2018 is all set to start from Monday. The highlight of the session will be the presentation of the Union Budget 2018 by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday (February 1).
There is a lot of buzz surrounding the budget. The upcoming budget will be the last full budget of the Modi government. The budget in 2019 will only be a vote-on-account. The voters are expecting various largesses and reliefs from the kitty of the finance minister.
If reports are to be believed the Modi government will be trying to woo back rural voters and small businesses when it announces the budget on Thursday. The budget will also try to pick up economic momentum as India heads into a season of elections, added reports.
According to Reuters, Jaitley will likely to step up funding of existing rural programmes such as a jobs guarantee scheme, rural housing and a crop insurance plan in the budget.
Speaking to Reuters, a finance ministry official said, "The government's top priority is to create jobs and boost growth. The budget is likely to offer incentives to the farm sector and small businesses."
Winning back rural voters to the BJP fold becomes more important for the Modi govt, especially after the Gujarat Assembly elections held last year which saw a majority of the rural voters going back to the Congress.
If the Gujarat elections could be considered a yardstick to measure India's sentiments, then the Modi government needs to end the economic woes of the farmers and rural poor.
Similarly, the BJP has to woo back the small businesses, considered to be the party's core support base, to its fold, once again. The small businessmen are mighty upset as the Modi government's twin economic decisions--the GST and the demonetisation--badly affected their businesses.
Last year, during a conference of the government and industry leaders, Jaitley said that "two areas to concentrate on in the upcoming budget are rural India and development of infrastructure."
Going by the finance minister's words, the budget will also lay an emphasis on building highways, modernise the railways and end infrastructure bottlenecks.
The budget is the first one of the Modi government after the implementation of the GST last year. The budget is also coming at a time when the government lowered its gross domestic growth forecast for the year ending March, 2018 to 6.5 percent--the lowest since 2014.
Thus the ruling BJP has a tough task ahead and it is the responsibility of Jaitley to come up with a budget to please one and all.