17 May, 2021

Hinterland In Sight

Bracketed between demonetisation and GST, Jaitley finds an occasion to quietly focus his lens on rural India. Shoring up the fundamentals there may need more big ideas, though.

Cool Eyes
Arun Jaitley’s 2017 budget bears a non-controversial tone, seeking inclusive growth
Photograph by Jitender Gupta
Hinterland In Sight

The looming background noise of demonetisation, the rail budget’s integration, a controversial advancement to February 1, the cusp of a crucial election season—Budget 2017 had a lot brimming around it that was circumstantially novel. And yet, in retrospect, the alarm among Opposition parties proved to be unduly excessive. They would have feared, perhaps justly, that the Modi government would roll out a gravy train with an eye on the five poll-bound states. However, fina­nce minister Arun Jaitley’s fourth budget—an exercise in balance that took great care not to upset any segment of voters without deviating from the path of fiscal prudence—had nothing in its content to evoke political uproar. “We were expecting fireworks, we got a damp squib,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi told media afterwards. The tone signalled more relief than disappointment.

Was the budget really a damp squib? Not really. There’s a consensus among experts that the FM had to walk a tightrope to formulate this year’s budget because there was little...

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