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NEW DELHI, FEB. 28.
The annual Budget contained hardly anything to bring cheer to the sagging morale of the Delhi unit of the BJP. As the news of proposals of the Union Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinha, poured in, there was gloom at the party's Pandit Pant Marg office, with many leaders warning of a backlash from the middle class and lower strata.
What has shocked the local BJP leaders is that no effort has been made by the Finance Minister to accommodate the views of the party unit while preparing the Budget. No consideration was given by Mr. Sinha to the fact that the party has to contest the crucial MCD polls in March. The sharp increase in the rates of LPG cylinders, imposition of surcharge and reduction in rate of interest on savings will not go down well and is bound to evoke a harsh reaction from the electorate.
The budget did little to boost the morale of the party and its cadres, which is struggling to retain power in the MCD. Although, publicly senior leaders maintained a brave face and welcomed the thrust given by Mr. Sinha to infrastructure and agriculture, in private they felt that the party would have to pay a heavy price for burdening the middle class. The reverses suffered during the recent Assembly elections are still weighing heavily on their minds. Now with such a ``harsh'' budget, it would be difficult to mobilise people to vote for the party. Why is it that everything bold and harsh has to be done by our Government. They should leave something for the next government also, a youth leader said.
Many Delhi BJP leaders were of the view that Mr. Sinha had sought to burden those very sections which had stood with the BJP during the Lok Sabha polls. ``The middle class and small traders have been traditional vote banks of the party. By imposing additional tax burden and hiking rates of daily use items coupled with reduction in incentives for savings would certainly adversely affect the chances of the party,'' a senior local leader remarked.
Leaders were of the view that targeting the middle class by reducing the rate of return on their savings, including Provident Fund, and imposition of five per cent income tax surcharge was a wrong move. ``While we have nothing new to offer to the poor sections and the middle class, we have imposed a burden on individual tax payers and domestic budgets have been hard pressed. The housewives are certainly not going to like it. And the working class and salaried people, who have generally gone with the BJP, will not vote for the party,'' another leader stated.
Another point of major embarrassment for the Delhi unit has been the lowering of duty on imported liquor. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition in Delhi Assembly, Jagdish Mukhi, had criticised the Sheila Dikshit Government for making imported liquor cheap. With the Finance Minister going ahead and lowering import duty on foreign liquor, it will be difficult for the party to target the Delhi Government and make this an election issue. ``Also, how are we going to justify the massive hike in LPG rates and reduction in fertiliser subsidy,'' asked another leader.
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