27 January, 2021

A Gift Horse? Say ‘Ahhh’

Do brown briefcase sops help outweigh the rest of the baggage?

A Gift Horse? Say ‘Ahhh’

This is a pre-election budget with a difference. It is not the one right before the country goes to once-in-five-year polls in 2014, but sure feels like one. In fact, given the mess the UPA finds itself in—a crisis of confidence, little money to throw at problems, and riotous coalition partners—it probably needs a couple of poll-friendly budgets to run a serious chance of being re-elected. Or so goes conventional wisdom. Is there after all a magic formula that finance ministers can take out of their brown budget briefcases to woo the electorate?

A look at pre-election budgets over the past decade-and-a-half doesn’t throw up a clear answer. A typical pre-election budget would reduce taxes and increase social sector spending—as the UPA’s first finance minister P. Chidambaram did in Budget 2008, or NDA finance minister Jaswant Singh did in Budget 2003. Alas, only one of the two governments was voted back. Did Chidambaram’s Rs 60,000-crore farm loan waiver swing it for the UPA at hinterland poll...



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