PM Modi had to hard-sell Budget 2023
Rama Krishna Sangem
The Union Budget for 2022-23 is now looking clearly, a day after it was presented in the Parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to address BJP cadre separately the day next – February 2, Wednesday, on the benefits of the budget to the common man. This address in Hindi is aimed at BJP cadres in five poll bound states.
Usually, PMs won’t address a separate meeting the day after the budget presentation, leaving it to the finance ministry officials to do the job. On the day of the budget, Nirmala and Modi commented to the media on the merits of the budget. So, this entire exercise of explanation by the PM conveys two things- one, he senses that this budget may not go well with the party cadre in UP etc.
Second is that there is a realisation among the top brass of the government that public expected a lot from this budget – either through tax relief or some cash transfer in the wake of pandemic induced distress. Sadly, the budget hasn’t mentioned either – instead just focussed on growth and development.
This may be a good budget from the perspective of long term vision for India, may be for a period of 25 years, till 2047, when the country will be hundred years old, but who cares? When a hunger stricken below the poverty line family expects some employment or cash in hand, they may not be impressed with the Capex (capital expenditure) driven GDP growth of 8.5 per cent by 2023.
Modi, more than anyone else, knows pretty well that the budget is not just an economic document made by economists to impress economists. It has to address the concerns and aspirations of average Indians who are caught with immense problems in the last two years due to Covid pandemic.
Digitisation, digital currency by our own central bank and launch of a digital university etc are all good for newspaper headlines, but not to the common man whose stomach and hands are empty. How can a rural youth appreciate slashing of MNREGA funds by 25 per cent in the budget, when runs from pillar to post to fetch some work?
Same is the case with middleclass or salaried people. How can they appreciate status quo in the tax slabs when their real wages have declined drastically due to high inflation? It is too much to expect them to sacrifice for the sake of 5 trillion US dollar economy by 2026. FM Nirmala Sitharaman may not understand their wounded psyche, but PM Modi can.