Arun Jaitley’s marathon speech on Thursday could well be seen as Narendra Modi’s message of thanks to voters who carried him to Delhi in May and an appeal to those who will soon vote in assembly elections.
Some budget proposals appeared to have been born of BJP ideas articulated by Modi during his memorable election campaign; others had found mention in the manifesto, widely seen as a Modi blueprint.
The BJP may be allergic to the term vote-bank, but this budget clearly rewarded parts of the electorate that voted for it: Farmers and the aspiring rural poor, Dalits, the middle class, the youth and of course, its core constituency of Hindu voters.
So landless farmers got cheaper credit, the rural poor got promises of broadband, cheaper TVs and better roads, Dalit-focused schemes got more money, the middle class got tax breaks, the youth got the Skill India and Digital India programmes, and Hinduism's holiest river, funds for a clean-up.
Uttar Pradesh, the state that put the election result beyond doubt for the BJP, was given generous allocations for ghat development and Metro railways, and will stand to gain most from the Ganga development programme . And Varanasi, the Hindu holy city that elected Modi as its MP, gets money for its weavers and benefits from a waterway project.
Professor SP Singh of the Indian Institute of Public Administration said the budget was progressive and tried to address the aspirations of sections to whom the PM had promised a lot during his campaign.
"He has tried to live up to expectations through this budget… (and) there has been a focus on election states but in the process he has not ignored others.”
Not surprisingly, Modi gave his endorsement to the budget through a tweet: “Finance Minister presented a Budget that is a ray of hope for the poor & downtrodden. It converts people's hopes & aspirations into trust.”
Of the election-bound states, Haryana got a horticulture research institution, Jharkhand one for agriculture research, Maharashtra an AIIMS and an Indian Institute of Management, plus agri biotech clusters, and Jammu and Kashmir funds for pashmina and sports stadia. Delhi, where the BJP is mulling forming a government, got money for power and water reforms.