With India’s general election just months away, the annual budget was all about Prime Minister Narendra Modi trying to resell his 2014 election pledge of hope. The question is will it work, asks economist Vivek Kaul.
Around an hour into his speech, finance minister Piyush Goyal spoke about a recent Bollywood film, Uri: The Surgical Strike. It celebrates the Indian army’s strikes in 2016 against suspected militants in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
He said while watching the film he’d been impressed with the audience’s passionate reaction, reportedly inspired by the movie’s overt nationalism. If there was any doubt this was an election-minded budget, it was put to rest by Mr Goyal’s reference to Uri.
India’s budget, the last before the next government is elected, offered something for almost everyone – from distressed farmers to its vast informal workforce to a growing middle class.
The biggest announcement was an income support scheme for farmers with cultivable land of up to two hectares (4.9 acres) – they will receive 6,000 rupees (about $84; £64) every year in their bank accounts.
At an estimated cost of $2.8bn, it will benefit nearly 120 million small and marginal farming households or 600 million people. That is a significant portion of the voting population and a little less than half of the Indian population, which will make this the world’s biggest income support scheme.