Why the 2022 EU budget could focus on farmers, women and young people

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NEW DELHI: When Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rises to read her budget speech on Tuesday, farmers, women and youth are likely to be her main concern. With five states heading to the polls from February 10, the Narendra Modi government is expected to appease some sections of society who are believed to be angry with it and win back others who are courted by rival political parties.
The year-long protest by farmers against the three agricultural reform laws, which was canceled in December 2021, has given the impression that the farming community is turning against the BJP which rules in the Center and has a major interest in the five States that go to the polls – Uttar Pradesh (UP), Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab and the others from Haryana and western UP, took part in the protest, which started on November 26, 2020.
While the BJP is in power in UP, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, it is running in Punjab for the first time after its alliance of more than two decades broke down in 2020 over the three controversial reform bills agricultural.
Farmers
Although the BJP has aligned itself with the new Punjab Lok Congress of former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) SAD (Sanyukt) faction led by Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, the main competition is considered between the ruling Congress and the Chief Minister of Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal led the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
But the BJP fears a major loss in western UP, which has seen Jat farmers take a major part in the movement against the agri-marketing laws. The party is doing everything in its power to appease the Jats.
The BJP has urged its Jat leaders to get in touch with the various khaps who wield considerable influence in the community. He sent feelers to Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Chaudhary to leave his alignment with Samajwadi Party (SP) Chairman Akhilesh Yadav and instead join his rainbow coalition.
Additionally, Union Home Minister Amit Shah was in Muzaffarnagar in western UP on January 29, where he sought to win back the Jats. He said it was a land of the brave and, specifically mentioning the Jats, he praised the Jat men for their presence in the armed forces in large numbers.
Amit Shah categorically mentioned the measures taken by the Modi government and the Yogi Adityanath waiver for farmers in UP.
He said, “The Modi government has provided aid of Rs 37,800 crore to 2,53,58,000 farmers in UP under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme.”
PM-KISAN is a central Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme under which financial assistance of Rs 6,000 per annum has been provided to all land-owning farming families across the country since December 2018.
Amit Shah further said that ahead of the 2017 UP assembly elections, the BJP promised a waiver of agricultural loans. “The Yogi government waived Rs 36,000 crore in loans within a week of taking office in 2017,” he said.
The Minister of the Interior also mentioned the royalties paid to sugar cane producers. “It’s a sugarcane belt. About Rs. 1,48,000 crore has been disbursed by the Yogi government to the sugar cane growers,” he said.
Women
Women have come to figure prominently in the campaign of the main political parties in the upcoming legislative elections, especially in the UP.
Congress Secretary General Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has based her election campaign mainly on women. Her party’s main slogan is “Ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon” (I am a girl, I can fight). She promised the distribution of 40 percent of party assembly tickets to women.
During his visit to Jalandhar in Punjab on January 27, former Congress speaker Rahul Gandhi announced that state unity would include some points exclusively for women in his manifesto for the state election.
SP recently created its women’s wing to attract more female supporters. Party leader Akhilesh Yadav has talked about providing better education and job opportunities for women in most of his election speeches.
BSP supremo Mayawati highlighted the work done by her government between 2007 and 2012 for the economic and educational independence of women.
To counter the Congress, SP and BSP, the BJP should come up with attractive announcements for the welfare of women in the Union budget.
Youth and unemployment
The SP, BSP and Congress are trying to put the ruling BJP in the dock on the issue of youth unemployment.
Akhilesh Yadav has indeed made youth unemployment one of his main electoral issues. He promised “better quality” laptops for young people and students if they were elected to office.
Priyanka Vadra and BSP General Secretary Satish Chandra Misra also denounced the BJP governments in the Center and the UP for, what they said, not generating enough jobs.
The Modi government had also sought to leverage Union budgets in 2017 and 2019 ahead of the UP assembly and Lok Sabha elections respectively.
Union budget 2017
The 2017 UP assembly election was held in the shadow of the demonetization announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just three months earlier on November 8, 2016.
The then finance minister, the late Arun Jaitley, highlighted the effects of notebandi in his budget speech and said it would have a big impact on the economy and people’s lives. He said demonetization should have a transitory impact on the economy. He called it a bold and decisive move that would lead to higher GDP growth. The impact of the economic measure would not carry over to the next fiscal year, he said.
The 2017 budget also had several announcements for farmers and women. It has allocated Rs 10 lakh crore as credit to farmers, with 60 days interest relief. He announced Rs 500 crore for Mahila Shakti Kendras and transfer of Rs 6,000 to each person under a national program for pregnant women.
Union budget 2019
The interim Union budget ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was seen as addressing the several issues raised by Rahul Gandhi and they included farmers, unemployed youth, minimum income guarantee scheme, demonetization and debate on the goods and services tax (GST).
The then finance minister, Piyush Goyal, addressed these issues in his interim budget. In fact, PM-KISAN was announced in this draft budget.
Goyal announced the “mega yojana pension”, namely Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan, to provide an insured monthly pension of Rs 3,000 per month, with a contribution of Rs 100 per month, for workers in the unorganized sector after age 60 . This was in response to Rahul Gandhi’s promise to implement a “guaranteed minimum income” program if Congress came to power.
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