New Delhi: The Founding Fathers never intended a nation where citizens would pay nearly half of everything they earn to the government.
Even as the Budget dust settles down and triumphal look continues on the face of the BJP leadership, a joke titled “A Poem by Arun Jaitley” went viral on the social network which went something like- “ Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, I have five fingers, Middle one is for you”.
The so called Ode by Arun Jaitley summed up what the Union Budget had for the middle class.
It reminds a common line one hears in conversions about Telugu films which goes- “Asalu story, Enti?”( What is the story?).
Like the usual question about Telugu films, the question the middle class has about the Union Budget-2018 is “What has it for us?”.
Like Telugu films, the union budget is full of sizzle, rhetoric with slogans sans content. In many ways, the Budget was an election manifesto.
In presenting a budget that is more a knee-jerk reaction to the Gujarat results which manifested the declining support for BJP in rural areas, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a huge risk by not only taking the middle class for granted, but possibly antagonizing them through a budget that is almost hostile to their sentiments, or to make the title of this article appropriate, that has shown a middle finger to the middle class.
The Budget is a fascinating glance into Modinomics( now popularly known as Pakadonomics), which now appears to be firmly smacked off the Middle class support for granted.
The taxpaying middle class has been left high and dry once again, with a few token gestures.
They are expected to earn money and dutifully hand it over to the government to run the economy and may expect very little in return.
The middle class has, so far, held firm for BJP through thick and thin.
If the BJP hopes to remain the beneficiary of There Is No Alternative (TINA) factor, it might do well to consider that governments have toppled for much less.
In betraying the aspirations of the Middle class, it is now evident that the Budget was designed to look pro-poor more out of compulsion than conviction.
It has designed from the perception that the people are distressed and disillusioned and that mere playing the Hindutva Card packaged in a consciously fabricated nationalistic patriotism alone would not get through next Lok Sabha elections.
Going gaga that this Budget is a pro-poor without allocating sufficient funds makes the Budget a document of wishful thinking.
The Budget has precious little to cater to the segment which constitutes at least a third of the population and has stood rock solid by the prime minister when he ushered in his disruptive policy interventions one after the other.
The Middle class stood by the government during the shoddy implementation of the demonetisation, GST, and supported it when the LPG subsidy was removed, yet, this government of “Sab Ka saath, Sab ka Vikaas”(With all, development for all), somehow, neglected the middle class.
The salaried class, a large constituent of the middle segment, has been facing hardships due to the slowing economy, rise in fuel prices and high retail inflation.
Not only has the Budget belied their expectations, the steps that have been announced will take money away from their pocket instead of providing them some relief.
To sum, the palliative focus on rural India might not be enough to assuage middle class anger.
The Budget is in line with the this governments character of more rhetoric, slogans, numbers and Jumlas.
No doubt, for the middle class, the “Lotus”, the party symbol of the BJP might now sound “Loot Us”.