South Asian Insider
Union Budget 2018
‘Vikas purush’ Narendra Modi set to be ‘man of the poor’
The political message of the last full Union Budget before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is that from a ‘vikas purush’ in 2014, Narendra Modi will now go back as the ‘gareebon ka neta’.
During his budget speech, finance minister Arun Jaitley mentioned how the political leadership of the country had seen ‘gareebi’ (poverty). This was not a leadership for which poverty was a ‘case-study’; they were the case-study themselves. In that passing reference, lies the clue to understanding the political message of the last full Union Budget before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In 2014, Modi went across India and projected himself as a ‘vikas purush’, the development man. Next time, as Jaitley’s speech made clear, Modi will go back as the ‘Gareebon Ka Neta’ (messiah of the poor).
5-point welfare message
The shift in image is not sudden. It can, in fact, be traced back to Rahul Gandhi’s ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ barb at Modi in 2015 and the defeat in the Bihar elections. Ever since then, Modi has consciously sought to distance himself from big business and emphasise his government’s focus on the poor. Indian demographics remain such that a party which is seen as favouring the elite — and only the elite — cannot win. There is another compulsion. The government, as senior ministers privately admit, knows well that it will not be able to generate the jobs it had promised and young India aspires for by 2019.
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