PERENNIAL wishful thinkers may have been disappointed by the absence of election-eve freebies from the last Budget of the Narendra Modi Government before it seeks people’s mandate for a third term. However, PM Modi’s assertion that his Government will present a detailed Budget after the 2024 Lok Sabha elections shows that he is confident of getting a larger mandate. The Government doesn’t have to make tall promises to get votes.
The Finance Minister, in her Interim Budget, stuck to fiscal prudence while presenting the Government’s long-term goals, including that of India becoming a developed nation by 1947. The FM has generally delivered more than what she promised in her previous Budgets. The Government has also avoided making tall promises and then falling short on implementation. This Budget is in accordance with those standards.
The Government believes that actions and performance during its term in office would be far more effective in establishing credibility with the voters than rhetoric and tall promises. Its position is that what it has done for different sections of the population – poor, women, farmers and the youth – will stand it in good stead in the polls, and there is no need for a populist stance in the Budget and promise doles and giveaways.
The FM, however, did not forget that elections are due shortly. Hence, she very effectively communicated all the schemes and programmes that the Government has implemented over the past decade, and which have led to the credibility of PM Modi reaching levels far higher than that of any other leader since Independence. These programmes have visibly improved the living standards of people; and these will be enough to give the ruling party an adequate margin over all others.
Women have, in the recent years, been the major beneficiaries of the Government programmes. The substantial infrastructure-building in the country has benefitted almost everyone. The overall progress of the country was subtly indicated by the reference to the G20 meeting. The clincher was the mention of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and the climate of optimism in the country.
The past performance in implementing the housing schemes will lend credibility to the Government’s promise to build another 20 million houses in the next five years under the existing schemes. Owning a house is a major aspiration of every Indian and these programmes will thus be welcomed by all. Economically, house-building has great merit as a driver of economic growth. It creates a lot of employment, and because of its linkages, results in creating a demand for a large and varied number of products.
The financial figures revealed by the Finance Minister are indicative of the fact that the Government has been working with great financial prudence. There were no overruns of the estimates and fiscal deficit has been brought down. The extraordinary push to infrastructure in the country will have multiplier effect on economic growth, employment-generation and technological innovations. This would need massive investment that will continue to benefit generations to come. The Modi Government has proved that it can not only successfully do it, but also find funds for a multitude of programmes that benefit the vulnerable sections of the population. This was not possible earlier.