India’s government trying to woo back rural voters in budget

Village women and girls carry water at Fangadi Village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India January 27, 2018. Picture taken January 27, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Vastavam web: India’s government will be trying to woo back rural voters and small businesses when it announces the 2018/19 budget on Thursday and pick up economic momentum as it heads into a season of elections, officials said.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, extolling India as a model of economic growth and political openness, told the World Economic Forum in Davos last week the country would be a $5 trillion economy by 2025, more than double its current size.

But at home, Modi is facing voter discontent over falling farm incomes and the lack of jobs for hundreds of thousands of youth entering the labor force each month.Modi’s ruling alliance barely scraped through an election in his home state of Gujarat last month and is now faced with elections in eight states spread over 2018 and a general election that must be held by May next year.Budget proposals are a closely guarded secret, but a finance ministry official with direct knowledge of the discussions said: “The government’s top priority is to create jobs and boost growth.”

The official added: “The budget is likely to offer incentives to the farm sector and small businesses.”Jaitley is also expected to stay the course on a massive plan to build highways, modernize the railways and end infrastructure bottlenecks that have long hobbled Asia’s third largest economy.As early as November, as he began laying out his priorities, Jaitley said at a conference of government and industry leaders that “two areas to concentrate on in the upcoming budget are rural India and development of infrastructure.”