Is the budget designed for early LS elections?



There is a lot of speculation on whether this year’s union budget to be presented by the finance minister in Parliament on Thursday would be an exercise which factors in an early Lok Sabha election. Most Congress leaders have been maintaining that the elections will be held on schedule in 2014. But political circumstances and situations can always lead to developments, which may necessitate an early poll. Political parties in any case are normally always ready to face the electorate and both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati have given indications that the Lok Sabha election is likely to be held this year itself. Both these leaders who are the most prominent players in India’s largest state—Uttar Pradesh—and are supporting the government from outside have even finalized their list of candidates for almost all the seats.

The UPA government has been hit by one scam after the other and there are voices also from within this coalition, which do not rule out the possibility of 2013 election nothwithstanding statements to the contrary by official spokespersons of the concerned parties.

There is a section within the Congress that believes that the party bosses may themselves opt for an early poll given that the BJP, the principal opposition party is yet to resolve its leadership tussle and thus may not be able to offer any stiff resistance at this juncture. But at the same time there are others who feel that politically it would suit the Congress to have elections along with the assembly polls in the second half of this year. The logic is that the Congress and BJP are facing each other in virtually a straight fight in four states—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Delhi—and in a triangular contest in Karnataka. Their view is that the Grand Old Party cannot risk losing to BJP in these assembly elections in 2013 as it would jeopardise its chances totally in next year’s general elections. Therefore, it would make more sense to have the polls either before the assembly face off or alongside it.

With these factors in the background, it is being speculated that the Union Budget will be designed to suit the middle classes and is likely to offer sops for almost all sections of society. A harsh budget in the backdrop of rising prices and the diminishing purchasing power of the rupee will alienate the masses from the government even further. The only way to keep the aam aadmi on its side is to have a budget that suits the common man.

The session is also expected to be a stormy one once the budget gets presented. There are likely to be contentious issues, which may figure prominently in the discussions in both houses of Parliament. Some of these matters could lead to emotions and tempers running high. For instance the issue of quota in promotions as also the demand of a separate Telangana state could lead to a fierce debate. The matters related to various scams could also turn the heat on the treasury benches. And even though the most experienced finance minister in the country is presenting the budget, it is politics, which will set the agenda for what should be expected in the future.

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