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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today announced the Union Budget for the year 2017-2018, thereby marking another important day on India's calendar. In the Budget presentation, the FM announced welfare schemes for the public and also targetted political parties over funding. While many have termed this Budget an inclusive one, debate has also sparked on its aim at softening confused voters. Hence comes the debate on whether its Budget is a populist one or not.
What is populist budget?
There is no definite way to define a populist budget. However, the term 'populist' is frequently used by political parties and politicians as pejorative against their opponents. Populism is seen as a channel to empathise with the public in order to increase appeal. Populists also seek to represent the interests of ordinary people. Hence, it can be said that a populist budget is one that is framed by the government who articulates the collective anxieties of the people.
Is a populist budget bad?
While the term is sometimes used as a political weapon to show disdain for the budget, it may seem like an act out of pure necessity.
Can Budget 2017-2018 be called a 'populist' one?
Yes, but not a negative connotation.
While preparing the Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had three pertinent aspects to bear in mind - 1. the country's capital expenditure and revenue and 2. upcoming Assembly elections in Punjab, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur; 3. demonetisation
In his speech on Wednesday, Jaitley announced measures to appease the country's rural population, a large majority of whom work as farmers, middle class, women and senior citizens.
From removing service tax on rail tickets purchased through IRCTC, to reducing income tax, Arun Jaitley attempted to ease bruise cast by the government's abrupt cash clampdown.
Apart from the list of sweeteners for the public, the Finance Minister announced a slew of steps to bring in transparency in political funding. The Finance Minister said, "Maximum amount that a political party can receive from a source in cash is Rs 2,000". This move may not make politicians happy, but voters, especially from the states in which elections are due this month will be delighted.