Hinting budget won’t be populist, PM Modi says common man does not want sops

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New Delhi: Less than a fortnight before the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government presents the last full budget of its term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said it was “a myth” that people wanted sops and freebies.

It is the responsibility of the government to understand the needs and aspirations of the people and work toward achieving them honestly, Modi said.

“Budget is the property of Parliament. It falls under the ambit of our finance minister, so I don’t want to interfere in that,” Modi said in an interview with Times Now television channel. “But…the common man does not want all these things (sops). It’s a myth. The common man expects honesty, he expects to get what he deserves. He doesn’t demand sops and freebies. It is our myth, and I trust the common man of the country. We run the government, take decisions to fulfil their needs and aspirations.”

His remarks come in the context of expectations that finance minister Arun Jaitley’s next budget, to be presented on 1 February, will contain measures to please the voters, especially those in the rural areas that have experienced agrarian distress, ahead of next year’s general election.

Replying to a question on rural distress, Modi said that it was the duty of the central government and state governments to work together and find solutions to the problems of farmers. Critics have called for measures to ease rural distress.

“This criticism is justified. We can’t deny this. It is the responsibility of the country, of the state governments, the Union government, my responsibility that the problems faced by our farmers are understood and resolved. Some of our attempts and measures in the past have instilled confidence, especially Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana,” he added.

Modi also said the people of the country should decide if they want populism, which he said reflected a political culture started by the Congress, or whether the government should resist populism.

Modi also explained a central political theme of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the past three years—its “Congress-mukt Bharat” (Congress-free India) slogan. The slogan was not against the Congress, but against the culture represented by the party, he said.

“When I talk of Congress-free India, it’s not limited to the Congress as an organization or its particular unit. Congress has spread itself as a culture throughout the country…casteism, dynasty, corruption and exploitation, treachery and keeping complete control over power. All this became a part of Indian political culture whose main pillar was the Congress,” Modi said.

He added that for a healthy democracy, it was necessary that the Congress party too is freed of the Congress culture.

Modi’s comments come ahead of elections later this year in four states—Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh—in all of which the BJP and Congress are directly pitted against each other.

Modi, when asked whether his equation with other world leaders had contributed to isolating Pakistan internationally, said India followed an independent foreign policy that was not centred on Pakistan.

“If you think India’s foreign policy is based on Pakistan, then this is a grave injustice to India. India’s foreign policy is based in the context of India, India’s foreign policy is based in the context of its relations with the world,” he said. “It is issue-based, our foreign policy is not based around one nation and it shouldn’t be. And if you think we are doing so much hard work around the world to isolate one nation, then that is wrong.livemint