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Wealth and Hindutva: For the BJP, one is for rich and the other is for poor

After four years of falling short, the BJP knows that it cannot go back to the larger, non-urban electorate with economic delivery as its election plank. For this section, ‘achhe din’ still remains a mirage and any mention of it may actually rile sentiments.

Written by Udayan Mukherjee | Updated: January 29, 2018 12:53 pm
The choice of Yogi Adityanath as the chief of India’s most populous state is the biggest proof of Modi’s conviction that Hindutva trumps economics any day, in the villages of north India. (Express Photo/Vishal Srivastav)

It is Budget season and there is the usual chatter in the well-heeled circles of Mumbai and Delhi about the possibility of “draconian” measures such as a long-term capital gains tax on shares, an inheritance tax or a wealth tax. Ironic, as this comes at a time when an Oxfam report has just told us that the richest 1 per cent of Indians accounted for 73 per cent of the total gain in national wealth last year. Yet, the rich want more. And they cannot bear the thought of the government claiming an extra portion of their fortunes, however tiny.

Ordinary hard-working, salaried folk part with over a third of their annual income, in the highest tax bracket. Income from bank fixed deposits, where most of Indian savings lie, is taxed at the same rate. But when you make a killing in the stock market, as most investors have over the last few years, you pay nothing, long-term capital gains tax being zero. Apparently, this is to encourage financialisation of savings. In a country where the poor go hungry, is this conscionable? Yet, the government cannot bring itself to take this step as it may break the breathtaking flight of the Sensex, which conveys to the world India’s great economic success. Inequality is just a leftist lament, the things which matter are GDP growth and the Sensex, correct?

The Oxfam report says we now have 101 billionaires. We should be proud of them. Thirty-seven per cent of these billionaires are inheritors of family wealth. For years, there has been background noise on an inheritance tax but the government has not had the guts to implement it. Meanwhile, most inheritors have protected their acquired wealth through the creation of trusts in a way that even an inheritance tax may not be able to reach. The Maharajas may have disappeared from the scene but economic feudalism lives on, and thrives.

Oxfam says that the wealth of the richest 1 per cent of Indians grew by Rs 21 lakh crore last year, roughly the size of India’s annual budget. Would it not be fair to tap a very small portion of this obscene number, as wealth tax? Just a drop of this enormous bounty for Indians who are less fortunate? Unimaginable. The finance minister has already soothed the anxieties of billionaires by promising that there won’t be any such tax.

After four years of falling short, the BJP knows that it cannot go back to the larger, non-urban electorate with economic delivery as its election plank. For this section, ‘achhe din’ still remains a mirage and any mention of it may actually rile sentiments. We saw glimpses of it during the recent Gujarat elections. Much more prudent, then, to fall back on good old Hindutva to win votes in the crucial Hindi heartland. The choice of Yogi Adityanath as the chief of India’s most populous state is the biggest proof of Modi’s conviction that Hindutva trumps economics any day, in the villages of north India.

Not just individuals, corporate India wants its share too. Lobbyists of CII and FICCI are working overtime to ensure that the rate of corporate tax is slashed in the budget, in line with an earlier commitment. Apparently, this is necessary to unleash “animal spirits” in our best companies, and of course to further fuel the Sensex. All lofty objectives. In essence, the portion of our country which has the most — wealthy citizens and profitable corporations — should get the biggest benefits from economic policy, that is the pitch.

It is logical to be baffled. At a time when economic growth has slowed, unemployment and inequality have jumped and the government is struggling to find budgetary resources, surely the onus must fall on the haves to help out the have nots? Equally, for a government preparing for a national election, one would have thought its priorities would be directed at the larger population — the ones who did not see their wealth balloon last year. Yes, but there is a flaw in that line of reasoning. The premise that economics is the key determinant for a voting choice across all sections of society is seen as a bogus one by the government.

Economics matters, for urban India. The BJP understands the economic pulse of the urban Indian voter better than any other party. A sharp fall in the Sensex can spoil the mood. Any claim on the growing wealth of the rich can affect the feel good factor. This cannot be disturbed. Modi hails from Gujarat, he understands it.

But what about rural India? Our farmers, small businessmen, wage labourers, the jobless? For them, there is the opium of the masses — religion. After four years of falling short, the BJP knows that it cannot go back to the larger, non-urban electorate with economic delivery as its election plank. For this section, achhe din still remains a mirage and any mention of it may actually rile sentiments. We saw glimpses of it during the recent Gujarat elections. Much more prudent, then, to fall back on good old Hindutva to win votes in the crucial Hindi heartland. The choice of Yogi Adityanath as the chief of India’s most populous state is the biggest proof of Modi’s conviction that Hindutva trumps economics any day, in the villages of north India.

This is why, while there may be some overtures to farmers and the rural population, analysts should not fear a hugely populist budget from Arun Jaitley. Some additional outlays here and there but nothing game-changing. And stock investors should breathe easy, nothing will be done to rock their boat. Villagers and farmers, on the other hand, should not expect any great turnaround in their fortunes. Rather, they should expect more instigation to emerge more patriotic and more Hindu, and cement their “rightful” domination of this great nation. What is money, after all, compared to these far loftier ideals?

Next year there will be another survey to show how the gap between the rich and poor has grown even wider. Yet, nothing will be done about it. Because our prime minister has cracked the winning formula. Horses for courses: More wealth for the rich, Hindutva for the poor.

The writer is consulting editor with CNBC-TV18

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  1. Gopikanta Ghosh
    Feb 1, 2018 at 4:22 pm
    Ditching country to benefit few. Wonderful article that exposes truth
    (1)(1)
    Reply
    1. Raviforjustice Raviforjustice
      Jan 30, 2018 at 10:11 pm
      Result of forgetting our values and copying the missionaries of whom it is said that when the landed in Africa they had bibles and the natives had their lands, soon after the missionaries 'improved the lot of the natives' they had the land and the natives had bibles!
      (5)(1)
      Reply
      1. A
        Avik Ray
        Jan 30, 2018 at 9:53 pm
        Another nonsense article authored by a typical Indian anachronistic leftist. No matter what they will keep criticizing the administration, while shedding crocodile's tear for the poor.
        (3)(14)
        Reply
        1. Milan Sha
          Jan 31, 2018 at 4:21 am
          the frustrated leftists commie bongs n keralites are resulting into violence and they have to be made to pay to save the nation ..
          (0)(4)
          Reply
        2. Francis Arackal
          Jan 30, 2018 at 9:08 pm
          Hindutva has been presented as an opium for the poor, dalits, tribals, the unemployed, and the underemployed some of them have swallowed it and they are producing hate and riots. It has reduced some Hindus to be emotional slaves of the ruler. "The choice of Yogi Adityanath as the CM of India’s most populous state is the biggest proof of Modi’s conviction that Hindutva trumps economics any day, in the villages of north India."
          (5)(3)
          Reply
          1. Milan Sha
            Jan 31, 2018 at 4:24 am
            haha the evangelical conversion industry has been stopped by Modi govt and they need to be made accountable for this hate industry ....first they avted the church drama ... when the conversions were stopped n now they r joining forces with jihadi elements ... time to make the church pedophilia accountable ...
            (0)(5)
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          2. M
            Murthy
            Jan 30, 2018 at 4:21 pm
            When "Blackpower 666" turns up, it usually means, end of further discussion. His bark is so loud, no sane voice can be heard. He is not unlike some Abrahamic religions whose basic dogmas and finality you can not question or even appear to walk away from. In any case, these days, with Indian Express, neither the main essays by this author and the likes of Ashutosh Varshney nor the comments voted on by our Pakistani cousins and the Congress Cell, mean much. So, better to attend to more meaningful tasks than reading these emotional but brainless essays and blogs.
            (4)(8)
            Reply
            1. blackpower 666
              Jan 30, 2018 at 4:30 pm
              i take that as a compliment to your declaration that you have lost the argument with me lock stock and barrel. you nver provide any data facts or evidence all rhetoric and hollow air that fill meteorological balloons - like your fake father fakendranath. be man enuff, be mature enuff to counter what i have to say with data facts evidence instead of your putrid imagination of allegations of pak cousins, congress cellls blah blah - the most meaningful task for you is to harvest the sacred gobar of your gaumatha and her several studbulls by tonne and the most sacred muthra of gaumatha nad her several studbulls by the galloon for the sake of your celibate father mo the moron bhagwat. btw how is your kangaroo god?
              (9)(5)
              Reply
              1. Milan Sha
                Jan 31, 2018 at 4:26 am
                hahaha too much of cor forced into u by ur pedophila imam or evangelical pastors ? hehe love to see the antimodi n antihindu frustrated morons puking their own cos there rears are sealed n blame govt for tha t...
                (0)(4)
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