Monday, July 15, 2024

Budget and more


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With the 18th Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, having started its first session, the election of the Speaker is slated for Wednesday and the real action would start thereafter. A complete budget, replacing the interim budget passed by parliament earlier this year, would be a major highlight of the first session. With old faces returning to head various key ministries, very little surprises need be expected in the course of this session or in the third term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even the Speaker would not change as the NDA aims to reinstall Om Birla for another term. The counter by senior-most opposition parliamentarian, Kodikkunnil Suresh of the Congress, is no more than a formality as the numbers overwhelmingly favour the BJP-led ruling alliance.
Hints are that the Union Budget would give concessions to the taxpayers in terms of income tax reliefs. The prime minister had stated after his nomination as PM for a third term that the new government would extend more support to the middle-class. With the national economy in a sustainable mode and the GST revenues having majorly increased, the government can afford to be liberal. The Modi terms managed the finances in a scrupulous manner and avoided playing to the gallery. With salaries in various sectors remaining more or less stagnant and the cost of living on the rise, the salary-fixated class is faced with serious financial difficulties. Nirmala Sitharaman’s continuation as finance minister is reassurance that there could be positive outcomes.
In fact, several of the senior ministers in the Modi government have not been changed, though portfolios were reshuffled as in the case of Rajnath Singh moving from home to defence the last term. This general continuity is both a strength and a disadvantage to the nation. The Modi team continuing its governance for a straight three terms, or 15 years, ensured stability. But, this has also discouraged change in terms of new ideas, new approaches to governance. The continuation of the same faces and the same policies for so many years is a luxury in any democracy. The results, however, from this stability are not very appreciable. India as a whole has not changed under Modi even as there have been major strides in the infrastructure sector. A key sector like the Railways failed to grow in any spectacular manner. The Vande Bharat trains are, at best, a minor improvement. Nothing earth-shaking has happened in the past 10 years. There were hardly any bold decisions or path-breaking steps. The net result was a steep fall in the esteem and number of the BJP members in Parliament – 240 in Lok Sabha against 303 the last time. It’s time for Modi-3 to perform better and show results.
It’s a time of wait and watch for the nation.


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