While time closes in on the presentation of the Union budget 2017 by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday, February 1, questions are still raised as to the difference between the NDA government’s policies as compared to the Congress-led UPA government. There have been certain accusations as to how the Modi government has found ways to reincarnate the policies used by Manmohan Singh and co during their decade-long reign in India. One of the stark differences between the policies and the pet schemes of both the governments. While, the UPA government during its second tenure went through a global economic crisis, loaded on with the pile of corruption charges worth thousands of crores, the Modi government haven’t yet faced such accusations or specific problems in the economy( barring the self-inflicted demonetisation).
The UPA government through their second term came to terms about the destabilising condition of the Indian economy and realised that it could not possibly create jobs in a hostile economic environment, thus shifting their focus to social welfare schemes such as the Mid-day Meal, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Bharat Nirman, NRHM. While most of these schemes could be considered as arguably successful, certain others such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) and the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) faced allocation cuts of Rs. 2,000 crore each. Budgetary allocation for the rural roads programme Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana’s was proposed to be reduced by Rs. 9,000 crores, according to the Hindu. Heavy reliance on “populism” and “freebies”, as media outlets quoted at the time led to the party’s downfall in Indian political scenario. To conclude, the Congress paid heavily for the attempts to create a welfare state rather than focussing on boosting the reform growth in the country.
The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the other hand, achieved majority on the promises of development and employment opportunities and have managed so far to achieve a balance between freebies and economic freedom of the citizen. The BJP government has also managed to get away after retaining certain welfare policies of the Congress while managing a few others. But what has captured the imagination of the population are Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promises to make them financially independent. Although Modi has not yet faced an economic crisis on any scale, he has successfully gone ahead with the ideas such as “Make in India”, “Digital India” and “Startup India”, “Ease of doing business”. He even managed to change the narrative of demonetisation as the slogan of a corruption free India was found to be too much for the troubles of the common man, with the introduction of a new idea of cashless economy.
Modi’s union budget 2017 is expected to focus on employment and trade schemes to free the Indian people of their dependence on social welfare schemes. Although, it would be interesting to see what the Finance Ministry goes the way of UPA II, considering the ‘aftermath’ of demonetisation.