Ruling BJP's election manifesto may counter the populist promises in the Congress manifesto with assurances that suit the growth ambitions of the neo-middle class, a segment of the population that is soon to become a dominant class of electorate, finance minister Arun Jaitley has hinted. He criticised the Congress manifesto to be driven by ideas that is far removed from today's reality.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the Annual General Meeting of apex industry body Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) in Delhi on Thursday, Jaitley said the Congress manifesto revealed the party's 'regulated economy' thinking.
"India's socio-economic character is changing. Slogans used 40 years before will not remain relevant soon. India's middle class and neo-middle class will be the largest vote base by the next general election in 2024. Election manifestos hence will be tested and judged using much harsher standards," Jaitley said.
According to him, India has already shown its economic resilience by continuing to be the world's fastest growing large economy at a time of global slowdown, bad monsoons and export slump. "If we can do it now, we will continue to grow for many more years. The policy followed in the regulated economy, that of re-distribution of the wealth of the rich, cannot aid this growth," Jaitley pointed out.
The finance minister said Narendra Modi government's approach towards growth - reforms which are market-based, resulting in expansion of economy and using that wealth to support the poor is the way forward.
"Just giving largesse without corresponding growth increase in income through loan melas took the fiscal deficit in UPA II to a five year average of 10 per cent," he said adding that the incumbent government didn't increase taxes, but increased income through better compliance. "It strengthened the neo-middle class as they had more money to spend. Meanwhile, our tax base doubled and increased tax collection resulted in increased expenditure in creating rural roads, in health programmes and in agriculture (direct income support)," he said. The minister also pointed out in the 20 months of GST (Goods and Services Tax) regime, every item related to construction segment, with cement being the sole exemption, saw reduction in tax rates.
Congress manifesto, on the other hand, reflected the regulated economic thinking of the pre-liberalisation era, he said.
It should be noted that one of the biggest promises in the Congress manifesto is an annual income support of Rs 72,000 each to every household of the country's poorest 20 per cent.
The theme of the two-day CII AGM this year is India 5.O India @75 and beyond.Also read: Lok Sabha elections 2019: PM Modi calls Congress manifesto hypocritical, full of lies