Budget 2018-19: Keeping an eye on electoral dividend

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By Sanjeeb Kumar

This was Narendra Modi government’s last full-fledged budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. If one looks into its political implication, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks to be ready for 2019 Lok Sabha elections as Finance Minister has announced that his government will give 1.5 times the cost of production to farmers. While presenting the Union Budget 2018-19, Arun Jaitley said the government has declared the minimum support price (MSP) for 2017 rabi crops at least at one-and-a-half times the cost involved as promised in BJP’s poll manifesto.

Keeping in mind the rural constituency, Jaitley announced setting up of Ekalavya Model Residential School on par with Navodaya Vidyalayas to provide the best quality education to the tribal children in their own environment by 2022. This will be established in every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons with special facilities for preserving local art and culture besides providing training in sports and skill development.

To attract rural voters, the Finance Minister announced the world’s largest government funded health care programme titled National Health Protection Scheme to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.

He also committed Rs 1200 crore for the National Health Policy, 2017, which with 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people. The Government also decided to allocate additional Rs.600 crore to provide nutritional support to all TB patients at the rate of Rs.500 per month for the duration of their treatment.
The current Lok Sabha is scheduled to be dissolved by May 2019. So the BJP, which holds a majority of 282 seats in this Lok Sabha, must start thinking about re-election. Multiple state assembly elections are scheduled before that general election.

Budget presented also kept in mind the incoming assembly polls for Karnataka currently ruled by the Congress, and for the BJP-ruled states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The states are predominantly rural accept Karnataka, which has now emerged as an information-technology (IT) powerhouse.