Budget 2017: Image makeover, or preparing for tough times ahead?

For the image conscious Prime Minister, this budget was a very crucial makeover opportunity. So, will Budget 2017 succeed in changing the image of Narendra Modi to a messiah of the poor?



Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Vinod Verma

For an image conscious Prime Minister, this budget was very crucial. Narendra Modi would have seen this as a makeover opportunity and it seems clear that the budget presented today has followed his wish list, point by point.


His own life, actions and reflections all gave many opportunities to the opposition to paint him as a friend of rich and powerful people and his government as a ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’. He has been trying very hard to change his image to a friend and sympathiser of the poor and common people, but nothing had clicked so far.


The abrupt decision to demonetise ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes on November 8, 2016 also went wrong. Clearly, Modi’s plan was to prove himself somewhat of a Robin Hood, but those who had black money denied him that opportunity and almost all the demonetised notes in circulation has been deposited in the banks. The Government’s quick change of narrative on demonetisation from black money to cashless economy, was not a choice but a compulsion.


So, the Union Budget was the last resort to change his image from a friend of rich people to a messiah of poor and farmers, and a friend of middle class Indians.


Now the question is, has Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented a pathbreaking budget this country has been waiting for? If you go by the initial market reactions, the answer may be affirmative but if you start looking at the holistic picture of the economy and the future challenges, you may not be so sure.

If you ask the common people what has been done in the budget, he or she may not be able to recall many points, barring a few announcements for farmers, two new AIIMS and pension scheme for the senior citizens through LIC.

Jaitley has tried his best to please the common people of the country by reducing the income tax for lower income groups. It will surely save them a few thousand rupees per annum. Similarly, a long pending demand of tax relief to MSMEs has been met and it will also give some relief to large number of SMEs. As the FM claimed, more than 96% of MSMEs will benefit.


But this tax relief is just one section of Budget 2017-18. There are nine more sections in the same budget, which include farmers, rural, youth, poverty, infrastructure to digital economy to public service etc.


If you ask the common people what else has been done in the budget, he or she may not be able to recall many points, barring a few announcements for farmers, two new AIIMS and pension scheme for the senior citizens through LIC.

This is first time that the Railways budget has been merged with the main budget, and no one would be able to remember anything other than tax relief in IRCTC tickets. When a common man would assess it, he would still feel the pinch of expensive rail tickets more, which cannot be compensated by this small tax relief.

After liberalisation, every budget talks about reforms, and so does this budget. But the common people know that it cannot bring the instant changes to their lives they are looking for, which is the mythological ‘achchhe din’.

There are many questions which have not been answered in the budget speech, like how will the government bring more people into the tax net? How will job opportunities be increased? How will more loan opportunities enhance the income of farmers?


After liberalisation, every budget talks about reforms, and so does this budget. But the common people know that it cannot bring the instant changes to their lives they are looking for, which is the mythological ‘achchhe din’.


Economists are saying that coming days will be difficult for the Indian economy, because of the cascade effect of demonetisation and the new tax regime of GST. Broadly, this budget looks like a preemptive step for facing those difficult days, but would it change the fate of the common people of this country is difficult to say.


And will it change the image of Narendra Modi to a messiah of the poor? Well, that will be an over-simplified conclusion.

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Published: 01 Feb 2017, 8:47 PM