By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, February 13, 2019: Those who taste power will always try to stay in power come what may. No wonder after the defeat in three States in the recent Assembly elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leaving no stone unturned to announce populist sops to ensure that it wins in the battle of ballots at the this year’s general election.

What counts most in our democracy is the vote count. To woo the voters, the ruling party even has to dabble with Annual Budget to sell dreams to the majuscule voters mostly living in rural areas. Fiscal deficit has widened, exports are falling, import in terms of money value is increasing, rupee dollar ratio has reached disturbingly the rock bottom, oil prices are again rising and in uncertain global political economy with the sanction against Iran in the horizon and the crisis in oil producing Venezuela oil price may further rise.

Still worse is the fact that unemployment level is the highest in the last forty five years if the media leak is to be believed. Core sector has registered disappointingly low growth. “Make in India” has nothing to drive home about. And the exit of foreign institutional investors (FII), there had been occasional sparkle in the stock market involving less than one percent of people.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) target has not been reached. Tax exemption will accentuate further fiscal distress. Pressurising the central bank to declare higher dividends and parting with its reserves reflect the desperation. Bond yield is increasing. Confidence of market is under decline. Rating agencies are apprehensive.

Given such a bleak scenario there is virtually no scope for all the pre-election sops and freebies to materialize although rampant loan waiver promises of the past and now by leading political parties will mislead voters and increase imbalance in the credit sector with huge non-performing assets with collapse of institutions. Foreign debts will be burdensome.

In an atmosphere of gloom of scams, promises to bring illegally stashed Swiss bank money and to credit Rupees 15 lacs to each bank account, raising of hopes of massive opportunity of jobs in the wake of Achhe din, bullet trains and smart cities, mammoth campaign with plane flying across the sub-continent and hopping of helicopters electrified the electorate with cornucopia of funds whose legitimacy was questionable, might have produced magic in the past.

With the present somber mood in the economy with cross-border unabated terrorism and undeclared hostilities in spite of 54” chest ,will the weapon of last resort like so-called interim pre-election unconventional budget produce any effect on voting trend is a trillion dollar question. Is it not like a postdated cheque on a crashing bank?

Sometime one gets an impression with a wounded and demoralized bureaucracy, all institutions having lost their shine, more raids on political opponents will take place, social media will circulate fake news and both print and electronic media will perhaps be blackmailed to flash reports of opinion poll to bolster the chances of the ruling regime.

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