The morning after finance minister Arun Jaitley presented the Union budget for 2017-18 in the Lok Sabha, newspaper dailies across the country ran largely favourable headlines over articles that hailed the Centre for not succumbing to populism ahead of the crucial assembly elections in five states.
The main story of the Hindustan Times’ Delhi edition, headlined ‘Safe budget hikes rural, infra spend’, noted how the government sought to ramp up rural and infrastructure spending and extend marginal tax relief to middle-class families as well as small businesses. A separate article on the same page also described how Jaitley decided to ‘give populism a miss’ despite upcoming political developments.
Times of India
The Times of India’s article ‘Wooing have-nots, hitting have-notes’ noted how the budget attempted to alleviate the post-demonetisation woes of the middle-class and the poor through tax cuts, while levying a major surcharge on those with an annual taxable income between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore.
The second story on the page described how the budget would bring shady electoral funding and shady cash transactions under the scanner. Accompanying it was a morphed image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jaitley posing as detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson respectively, examining currency notes under a magnifying glass.
The Indian Express
The Indian Express, on the other hand, steered clear of puns and wordplay to simply describe Jaitley’s third budget as ‘no-nonsense’ in gigantic fonts. The accompanying strap hailed the government for staying the ‘prudent course in uncertain times’, despite not revealing any big ideas through the exercise.
The Telegraph, known for its scathing yet humorous headlines, refrained from criticising the budget outright. However, it could not hold back a wicked pun on Modi’s favourite reference for his countrymen (DeMitronisation, goes the headline) to describe how Jaitley has used the budget to address the people’s anger at demonetisation.
The recently launched Delhi edition of the DNA – for its part – decided to go with a simple ‘Remonetizing India’ headline, noting how the finance minister decided to refrain from announcing freebies in his budget.
The Hindu termed Jaitley’s third budgetary exercise as a ‘Small Wonder’ that maintains fiscal discipline while handing out more to those at the bottom of the income pyramid. The second story on the page described the impact the budget would have on politics, with Jaitley fixing a Rs 2,000 ceiling on cash donations to parties.