Budget as poll strategy: PC plan to contain Modi, placate Nitish

Congress plans pro-people image to bracket Modi with corporate and super-rich

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Ajay Singh | March 1, 2013




The budget has practically begun the countdown for the general elections next year. There are all indications that the political chessboard has been clearly laid out and moves have been initiated to checkmate rivals.

Also read: Budget 2013: More politics than economics

Finance minister P Chidambaram has taken a lead on behalf of his party and initiated clever moves to encircle the BJP in general and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in particular. This is why he went out of the way to placate Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar by endorsing his demand for redefining the criteria of backwardness of states for which they get extra central funds.

In recent months, Nitish Kumar has been pressing this demand for a special status for Bihar, so that the state can get central assistance for catching up with developed states. He has been campaigning on this issue in the state and is expected to hold a major rally in Delhi shortly. Chidambaram's endorsement of Nitish Kumar’s demand was carefully calculated to create confusion in the NDA. That he succeeded in his objective was evident from the praise he won from the JD(U).

Given the fact that Nitish Kumar is averse to the positioning of Modi as the campaign leader for the BJP, Chidambaram has shrewdly offered bait and Nitish Kumar has shown an inclination to bite it. All this is bound to set alarm bells ringing within the NDA.

While winning over Nitish Kumar is a master strategy and indicates that the Congress is working to a plan for the general elections, Chidambaram's budget has been carefully designed to give an impression of it being anti-super-rich and pro-poor. The socialist thrust of the budget was no doubt in alignment with the Congress strategy of identifying the party with the common man.

But the decision to impose surcharge on the super-rich was intended to keep a distance from the corporate India in the wake of a series of scams which showed collusion of the UPA regime with certain corporate houses. Apparently the move was aimed at neutralising the insinuation that the government has been promoting crony capitalism. However the underlying political message was deeper given the fact that most of the corporate houses are seen as lobbying for Modi.

The Congress seems to be counting on the assumption that the party's pro-people image would get strengthened if there is a clamour among the super-rich in favour of Modi. By this one stroke, Modi could be bracketed with corporates and the super-rich. By all accounts, the budget seems to be unfolding the UPA strategy to encircle Modi and contain him much before he can grow bigger for his boots.

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