Fiscal secularism in the budget: A political point

In her budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed welfare-for-all as the real thing, citing the Centre’s “saturation approach of covering all eligible people” as an achievement of “social justice”.
In her budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed welfare-for-all as the real thing, citing the Centre’s “saturation approach of covering all eligible people” as an achievement of “social justice”.

Summary

  • Advani of the ruling BJP gave us the term ‘pseudo secularism’ and Sitharaman’s budget speech proposed welfare-for-all as the real thing. Will it weaken Congress differentiation?

In economics, the term “secular" is uncontested. It refers to a trend over an extended period after blips are smoothened out, as with rolling-average plot-lines on a graph. In English, it’s an adjective for something that bears no link with religious or spiritual matters. And in politics, it’s a long story fraught with an ideological fight across our political divide. 

Bharat Ratna nominee L.K. Advani of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had sought to cast the Congress version of secularism as “pseudo". In Thursday’s budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed welfare-for-all as the real thing, citing the Centre’s “saturation approach of covering all eligible people" as an achievement of “social justice" and adding “This is secularism in action." On usage, this assertion ticks both the economic and language boxes. In politics, it can be taken as an attempt to close every chink in the BJP’s armour as Lok Sabha polls loom. 

Whether it weakens Congress planks of differentiation may depend on what the opposition party does; its right-to-justice rhetoric will need to fit better with a plan for the economy’s emergence, even if it reckons its “idea of India" clearly differs.

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