Gradually, the middle-class, the major part of the voters, is getting the real meaning of “Acche Din” (Good days) of the Saffron party and its government at the Centre. Now, “Acche Din Ka Raja” is alienating many of his middleclass supporters.
The latest grouse of the middleclass is the Modi Sarkar’s decision to fiddle with their provident fund with which they have an emotional attachment. Their anguish is genuine as it’s their own money linked with financial security. How the government that came to power with the support of the middleclass could fiddle with their EPF money, when it has failed to recover bank dues from wilful defaulters and failed to bring back black money from abroad, as promised during the polls? Liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s timely escape to the UK, a week before 17 Indian banks moved the Supreme Court seeking his detention, citing the Rs 9,000 crore he owes to them, has created doubts in the minds of middle-class voters.
The NDA government’s priorities are not clear. EPF muddle began with the budgetary provision to tax 20 per cent of withdrawals on retirement (with 40 per cent going to investment in annuities and another 40 per cent being tax-free even if withdrawn) and later one was tightening of rules on premature withdrawals, making it difficult for the relatively less well-off to get their money back when they need it. The backlash was instant and the political storm forced the government postpone the tax proposal and roll back the EPF premature withdrawal tightening rules.
During poll season, the BJP had promised many things including increasing the income tax exemption limit to the salaried class, who were the key voter base. Instead of fulfilling the promises, the NDA government came up with many proposals that are detrimental to the interests of the already over-burdened middleclass. All goof-ups, right from its desperate attempt to push the land acquisition amendment bill and GST and now EPF, clearly indicate lack of original ideas at the policy making level.
Alienating and antagonising the middleclass is all set to boomerang on the BJP. The signs are now visible at different levels-be it the salaried class who are worried about their EPF savings or the farmers in rural areas who are suffering due to drought and water shortage.
While the Modi Sarkar’s finance minister may argue that all is being done for good economics, the government must realise that good economics does not always make for good politics. If the government makes such strategic mistakes, it will hurt the ruling party in the long run. There will be protests and the government will have to buckle under public pressure. Every time raising issues related to emotional, patriotism and Pakistan may not help to stick to power. After all, the BJP is a party with a difference. It has to think differently from the Congress.