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'The middle class is already alienated.'
'If the stockmarket is destabilised, the BJP is finished; the party will lose in every town.'
'And if the stockmarket crash happens just before the 2019 elections, the BJP will not cross the 150 mark in 2019.'
IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi with Bharatiya Janata party President Amit A Shah at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, February 1, 2018. Photograph: Atul Yadav/PTI Photo
The Narendra D Modi government's last full Budget has been described as populist with an eye on the 2019 election.
Will the schemes announced in Budget 2018 be enough to give Modi another term as prime minister
M D 'Monu' Nalapat, political analyst and academician (honorary director and UNESCO peace chair department of geopolitics and international relations at Manipal University) does not think so.
"The time for reform was in the first year but the government did a pass to that," Professor Nalapat, below, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.
Do you feel the finance minister wrote Budget 2018 with the 2019 election in mind?
Any kind of a transformational Budget has to be in the first year of the government, and not the last year.
So, whatever done in the last year is discounted as something done with the election in mind.
Then, of course, the longevity of any government is in doubt in a democracy.
So, the time for reform was in the first year, but the government did a pass to that.
They basically had a Budget that pleased Wall Street and not the Indian mainstream.
It was all meant for the fund managers so that we could have these artificial upgrades and downgrades in ranking.
But these rankings have no effect on ground. It's all for those with dollars to make more dollars in India.
The complaint by many was that this government was just the continuation of the two UPA governments.
Yes, the influence of P Chidambaram is still very strong in the government in the financial portfolios because most of the senior civil servants are Chidambaram loyalists.
That is why there was no new thinking at all in the Budget.
In fact, there was no new thinking at all from 2014.
The same old people are controlling the government. The home and finance ministries are functioning as they were before.
Narendra D Modi changed the BJP as an organisation, but not the government.
The ideological mentor of this unimaginative Budget is Chidambaram. His men have succeeded in making sure of Chidambaram coming back to power as the prime minister.
If Rahul Gandhi does not become the PM, the next senior person is Chidambaram.
The whole emphasis has been on collection of money than promotion of growth.
This is the colonial mindset of the finance and home ministries of this country since 1947.
What does the finance minister say? We collect finance for the coming year; they don't say, we want the economy to grow for the next generation. They collect money in such a way that harms growth in the next generation.
What we need is lower, much lower, taxes for growth so that the government gets a smaller share for higher growth.
Here, the government is looking at a larger share in lower growth.
The entire emphasis on the Budget reflects the emphasis of North Block and their colonial way of thinking.
You mean the 7.5% growth they are talking about is not enough for the country?
Yes, we need to have a minimum of 11% growth. China did it, why not India? We can do it.
7% or 8% is too low for a country of this size. And you have gone to 5.7% which is a catastrophe, and that too when there is high global growth.
UPA (Dr Manmohan Singh's United Progressive Alliance government) had an excuse of the global crash, but now there is a global revival. But India is not sharing the global revival.
In the past, India did not share the crash, now we are not sharing the revival too.
Do you feel the government was late in announcing the healthcare initiative and schemes for farmers?
These schemes are practical only if the economy is growing at 12% to 15%. They are not practical when the economy grows at 6% or 7%.
Today, where is the money for all these schemes?
Secondly, the government had the benefit of about Rs 4 lakh crore because of the lower oil prices. Where has all that money gone?
With the government increasing the MSP (minimum support price) by 150%, do you think rural India will be happy?
When demonetisation was announced on November 8, 2016, my comment was the BJP had signed the political death warrant for 2019! I stand by that even today.
Rural India still suffers from the effects of demonetisation.
Another bad decision was not allowing the rural co-operative banks to accept old notes for new.
For the Uttar Pradesh election win, the only explanation I have is that Muslims went from Mayawati to Akhilesh (Yadav) and Congress and they were not strong enough to win.
Mayawati was too weak as a result of the Muslim vote deserting her and the BJP got the benefit. The switch could not push the SP-Congress to win but weakened the BSP enough to lose. It (the result) has nothing to do with rural India supporting demonetisation.
Demonetisation will still be the killer for the BJP, and the way GST was implemented, it is another killer.
The government is in denial even today about the negative effects of demonetisation. Otherwise, how did the two bureaucrats who pushed the most for demonetisation become the finance secretary and finance commission member?
Another thing that affected rural India was the way some very big Indian and foreign corporate houses did forward trading and speculation in food stuff.
The third toxic measure was flushing liquidity completely from the market. These three toxic measures affected the rural sector very badly.
Today, you see that the economy is slowing, revenues are slowing and the government has no money for this.
Istrong>It is obvious that schemes like universal healthcare and 150% MSP for farmers are announced with the 2019 election in mind. Will they bring in votes for the BJP in 2019?
This is the fourth year of the government and nobody is going to believe them.
Nobody believes anything a government says in its last year.
The time for reform was the first year. Now, it is too late for anything.
I forecast in 2013 that the BJP would win 300 seats and the Congress would get 50 seats.
I will say as of now, the BJP is on track to lose the election unless a complete change of situation takes place.
Gujarat was saved for the BJP by Mani Shankar Aiyar. And for that, the BJP should give a Padma Vibhushan to him!
Do you think with this Budget, the BJP has alienated the salaried middle class which stood by the BJP?
The middle class is already alienated.
The BJP needs to win in the cities to come back to power.
If somebody is willing to risk Rs 3,000 crores and crash the stockmarket, that will be the end of the BJP, and politicians in India have 20 times more money abroad.
The fact is Rs 3,000 crores of foreign money can decentralise the Indian market and cause a crash.
If the stockmarket is destabilised, the BJP is finished; the party will lose in every town.
If I were an Opposition politician with lots of money, I will use the money I have in foreign funds to destabilise the Indian stockmarket and create a crash. It is not difficult.
And if the stockmarket crash happens just before the 2019 elections, the BJP will not cross the 150 mark in 2019.
Otherwise, as of now, the BJP may get 210, according to me.
Is there anything in the Budget that can help create jobs which was what the prime minister promised in 2014?
The best thing a government can do is to get out of the economy, get out of regulations and allow people freedom.
In the 1950s we had a flourishing private sector because of the Japanese and Korean private sector and Nehru killed it.
Modi should remember his promise of minimum government and implement it. We don't need more government.
Modi came to power giving so much hope to people for a better tomorrow. What happened?
Most of the key people in the Modi government are Lutyens zone people.
They are so dominant in creating Indian policies. Modi and Co have gone into coexistence with Lutyens.
This is a Lutyen zone government and as long as it is that way, the country will not make any progress it needs to make.
Modi had a great opportunity, but I am sorry to say he is on track to losing it.
Did he miss the bus?
The bus is still there, but Modi will have to run, run really fast, to catch it.