Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi | PTI
Text Size:

The Modi dispensation still has to contend with the lack of jobs narrative and the growing OBC, SC/ST consolidation over the upper caste quota.

New Delhi: The NDA government stumped its political adversaries with a poll sops-laden interim budget — or “account for vote” as former finance minister P. Chidambaram grudgingly called it — but the euphoria in the ruling camp is arguably over the top at this stage.

The interim budget will help the BJP consolidate its support base, especially among the urban middle class, including homebuyers, and may alleviate angst against it among small and marginal farmers who may be in so much distress that they would welcome the government’s dole of even Rs 500 a month.

But that takes care of only a part of the problem the BJP faces in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. While it continues to largely rely on Modi’s persona to secure electoral victories, the saffron party is today confronted with three broad questions.

Also read: Modi danced the fine line – his budget wasn’t anti-rich & his govt didn’t defend past sins

Jobs, quota and Modi persona

First, will the BJP be able to change the opposition-woven narrative about the government’s failure to create jobs? It is a subject dear to the youth who had overwhelmingly voted for Narendra Modi in 2014.

Or, to put the same question differently, does the ruling party have enough trust in Modi’s achievements, especially on the economic front, that it can signal to the electorate that it wants a renewed mandate for ‘Vikas’— or ‘Vikas Purush’— and not for the Ram temple in Ayodhya or against the ‘termites’ from Bangladesh? Income tax rebate apart, the middle class will be sensitive to the BJP’s priorities.

We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.

Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.


Second, can the saffron party neutralise the ongoing mobilisation of the SCs/STs and the OBCs by its political adversaries over the issue of 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections in the general category?

Even without this mobilisation, state-specific alliances of parties commanding the loyalty of particular castes and communities threatens to unravel the ruling party’s game plan. A substantial section of the OBCs and Dalits had switched their loyalty to Modi in 2014 but are no longer vocal about their support. Their continuing allegiance to Modi is crucial to the BJP’s fate in 2019.

The third question is whether painting the opposition as corrupt and nincompoop is electorally as potent a strategy today as it was in 2014.

Is Goyal’s budget enough?

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal’s speech offered no answer to the first two questions — though he did mention a substantial increase in allocation for SCs/STs. While he did refer to “phone banking”, “transparent auction of natural resources” and transparency in the real estate sector to remind the people of the omissions and commissions of the previous Congress-led regime — and Modi has been at it all through his tenure — unending raids on opposition leaders by investigative agencies may have discredited the corruption plank.

As it is, Goyal’s budget should surely please the BJP and its sympathisers but there remain a few questions about its game-changing impact. That apart, Goyal did succeed in rattling the opposition Congress, with Chidambaram left only to nit-pick, including the minister’s bilingual speech, and to question the constitutional validity of an outgoing government presenting a full-fledged budget. As if the legalese matter to Modi or for that matter the voters.

Also read: No other govt has announced such sweeping tax changes in interim budget


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.

Support Our Journalism

1 Comment Share Your Views



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here