One of my comments on Budget 2018 was:
#Budget2018 - IMHO - @narendramodi ji is boldly creating a new #votebank dumping earlier Core base of unpredictable #Middleclass mainly #Hindu. Began with #Jandhan#Insurances#DeMon - now #Health#Agriculture
This was after a tweet that had fulsome praise for the budget.
Some people thought I was ‘traitor’, some thought I was abandoning Modi. Some criticized me while some expressed support for my views saying BJP had indeed ditched middle class and Hindus. They point out that Rajasthan by-election results were the proof of how people would treat BJP if it persists with such policies. Many political commentators and veteran journalists told me that I was correct.
Was I being cynical? Was I reflecting middle class crib about being given the short end of the stick in each budget since 2014?
Let me recount that some months back I had published an article in www.newsbharati.com analyzing how PM Modi was actually implementing Deendayal Upadhyay’s philosophy of Integral Humanism that talks of serving the last person in the queue. This is what I wrote on 1st December 2016 –
Advent of Modi and a break from the Past –
If you look at PM Modi’s actions carefully, he is focused on working on Indian political economy in line with ‘Chiti’ of this nation. He has invoked various symbols that have awakened a sense of connect with ancient Indian culture and a sense of pride that will inspire people to act with good of country as the guiding light. Fortitude with which citizens have borne the difficulties after demonetization shows that this spirit of larger good of the society and optimism has inspired them to behave this way.
Modi’s actions so far in line with Integral Humanism –
• Jan Dhan Yojana (bringing poorest of poor in the national mainstream through financial inclusion)
• Stand-up India (a big support system for social groups that have been living at the margins and depending on government support and jobs and business for progress)
• Skill India (making huge young population employable with changing economy and industry)
• Mudra bank (Biggest employment generating sector, strangely called unorganized sector, that needs small funds to thrive, now find it easy to gain access to capital.)
• Social Security Schemes ( first affordable universal low cost insurance and health insurance schemes)
• Farmer’s financial security – (workable Crop Insurance, better irrigation, soil health card)
• Swachha Bharat Abhiyan – (basic preventive health care initiative with toilets)
• Electrification at rapid pace in remotest areas –(enabling rural masses to grow in all aspects)
• Sagarmala - (utilization of our huge marine borders with economic upliftment of people in coastal belt)
• Rapid expansion of Road infrastructure – (providing new employment opportunity and access to better living)
• BetiPadhaoBetibadhao – (quest for gender justice)
• Free e-books for CBSE syllabus - (helping poor students aspire higher with easy and cheap access to books and education)
• Strengthening federal structure of India by better distribution of resources between centre and states.
This 2018 budget is also dominated by steps that strengthen the hands of farmers, micro and small businesses. It seeks to provide strong base of healthy life with the biggest public health program. However, this budget again shows disdain for middle class that began with the first budget post 2014 election. Beginning from EPF tweaking that created quite stir to minor tinkering for last 3 years, the Finance Minister has given no major benefit to the most vocal and strong support base of the middle class.
Thus, while I appreciated the economic wisdom of PM Modi, I was also clear that Middle Class has been consistently given the short shrift while much bigger concessions are being rolled out to Corporates. Middle Class contains salaried class which, according to Jaitley himself, pays highest tax per head. All this class has got is tinkering and fooling a la Chidambaram style – giving from one hand and taking away from the other. This is all the more irritating to the salaried class.
Thus, my message was that Modi is looking at a bigger catchment area of votes, which I called a vote bank in a broader sense, not in terms of minority-majority. It is also clear that treating loyal middle class with disdain is nothing but dumping them or assuming that they have no choice. Let us not forget ‘NOTA’ is also a choice that saw 6-8 seats slipping out of BJP hands in Gujarat.
I elaborated further that major section of Middle Class is Hindu. If I imply dumping Hindus in it, it is with a reason. None of the issues on which Hindus felt aggrieved and supported BJP has been touched. The 93rd Amendment to Right to Education (RTE) that hurts majority (meaning Hindu) schools has not been removed. BJP leaders are tight lipped. Hindus have been agitating about Temple control by State governments who use the funds of devout Hindus for governmental or even other religious activities as highlighted by Stephen Knapp in his recent book and earlier by Sri Sri Ravishankar ji. In fact, BJP governments have also shown an inclination of taking over temples along with temple lands.
Recent defeat of BJP in Rajasthan is a culmination of continued rubbing of Hindus the wrong way. Whether it is demolishing only Hindu and Jain temples, including very old ones and leaving other religious places untouched, or protecting Bangaldeshi immigrants’ interests at the cost of social security – BJP tried to ape secular parties.
I had tweeted after Gujarat elections that ‘Vikas’ alone doesn’t lead to victory in elections. If it were so, BJP wouldn’t have been drubbed in Saurashtra region that saw maximum ‘vikas’ or development in Gujarat. BJP also saw that caste loyalties trumped ‘vikas’ in Gujarat elections. That is why I termed this as ‘unpredictable’ middle class, Hindu voters from BJP point of view.
I hope BJP supporters and leaders will think hard and look at the mirror, rather than lash out at me. My tweet has reflected on the positive aspect of Modi’s pragmatic strategy as a leader, ahead of the curve, than all other political leaders, and pointed out negative aspects of BJP’s financial and social approach to issues that agitate Hindus. All said and done, BJP is seen as a party of the Hindus. Hindus and middle class remain the hard core voters of BJP. No wise party abandons its core base even as it tries to wider its voter base as it has not generally worked.
I have analyzed as an objective political analyst who is also a supporter of BJP and PM Modi since decades when we used to celebrate even saving of deposit of its earlier avatar Jan Sangh in elections!