A populist Budget providing for a massive farm loan waiver, income tax sops across the board and no additional burden on the corporate sector on Friday prompted widespread speculation that Lok Sabha polls may be held before the end of the year, probably by October or November.
Apparently the fast-tracking of the implementation of the debt waiver and relief scheme by June this year led to political parties, including those on the side of the government, and the industry predicting that elections are not far away.
Short of announcing the date for elections, everything else has been announced, said leader of the CPI Parliamentary Party in Lok Sabha Gurudas Dasgupta, whose party supports the government.
Dubbing the Budget as "election manifesto", BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "It is a clear signal that elections are being held early. The nature of the Budget is virtual declaration of mid-term elections." Sharing this view, noted industrialist and Rajya Sabha member Rahul Bajaj said the Budget has clear indicators for early elections.
In the central hall of Parliament, Congress MPs were discussing the possibility of early polls and joking with colleagues of other parties to get ready for the battle. However, CPI MP D Raja does not feel it points to early elections, though he concedes that the Budget does have a short-term perspective on several issues.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the hero of the day, dismissed all talk of elections saying in India elections take place every year and the budgets can be described as election budgets.
"If you have nothing else to say about the Budget, then you can call it election-Budget," he said in a tone tinged with sarcasm at the customary post-Budget briefing.