They say a week is a long time in politics. It seems in an election year, even a 24-hour cycle is a really long time. Else, how would you explain the public sentiment on Thursday when CVoterIndia carried the Pre-Budget Survey on ‘Expectations from Union Budget 2019’ and the Exclusive Union Budget Exit Poll that was carried on Friday right after the Union Budget 2019 was presented.
For more than 15 years, every year Team CVoter has been conducting this exercise, right before and right after the Union Budget. Never before has one marked such a huge mood swing among the public, particularly the middle class in such a short span of time.
The Cvoter Budget exit poll was conducted right after the live telecast of the finance minister's speech in Parliament; interviewing a national representative sample of over 1,200 randomly selected respondents across all demographics covering all states.
Broadly speaking, the economic management by the Modi government evokes neutral sentiment among Indians. Due to the careful management of food inflation, there is a lack of focused anger against the Central Government.
However, the lack of anger should not be confused with active support for the NDA-II. Two key parameters of Cvoter pre-budget tracker illustrate this well.
In the pre-budget survey, 48 percent of the respondents felt that inflation has gone unchecked, while 37 percent felt that prices had gone down. Of all the respondents, 13 percent felt that nothing had changed. Clearly, the national sentiment over inflation is divided with a distinct tilt towards the negative side, despite a moderate inflation macro-scenario barring an episode of global crude oil spike.
In the Budget Exit Poll on Friday, the number of people expecting this budget to bring down the inflation shot up to 15 percent, up from the 9.7 percent recorded in the 2018 budget. The pessimism came down from 58 percent to 44 percent when compared with the 2018 Budget Exit Poll numbers.
In this year's pre-budget poll, when respondents were asked to grade the quality of life of an aam aadmi over the past year, 42 percent respondents claimed that it had improved while 32 percent claimed that it had deteriorated. Pointedly, 25 percent respondents averred no change. It is these neutral respondents that will decide the political course of the nation in 2019.
But in the Budget Exit Poll on Friday, the number of people expecting overall quality of life to go up within a year shot up to a massive 62 percent, up from the 40 percent after last year’s budget. The number of people fearing that their quality of life will deteriorate came down from 30 percent to 11 percent when compared to 2018 Budget Exit Poll numbers.
From these two headline indicators, a sharply divided public opinion becomes self-evident. There are supporters of NDA-II’s economic policies and then there are opponents. Also, according to the 2018 Budget Exit Poll data, almost 35 percent of Indians felt that the Modi government did worse than expected while 31 percent felt that it exceeded their expectations. The same trendline continued till Thursday, almost around the same numbers. But that changed all of a sudden on Friday, and how. As of Friday, 42 percent feel the Modi government has done much better than expected, while the number of people saying it has worked worse has gone down to 24 percent only.
Under such circumstances, a whopping 79 percent middle-class respondents had stated Thursday that they could think of supporting back NDA-II if it conceded sops in the 2019 budget. These included exempting incomes up to Rs 5 lakh from income tax, implementing universal basic income, tax exemption to medical allowance and GST relief on the purchase of house among many others.
Going by the overall rating of the Union Budget 2019, it seems the political side of the budget has delivered. When asked to rate the Union Budget on 0 to 10 scale, the Modi government had scored 6.6, 6.3, 5.2 and 4.7 over the last four years. The Modi government score of 4.7 in 2018 was, in fact, lower than the 4.8 score of the UPA government's last budget in 2013-2014. Needless to say, it was a downward spiral all the way which must have rung alarm bells in all the wrong places. On Friday, the public rated it at a handsome 7.0 score out of 10, which is a huge jump from every perspective.
Last year, as many as 64.4 percent of the respondents had said that the budget would push up their monthly expenses and only 15.9 percent said it would allow them to save further. On Friday, that number more than doubled with 33 percent respondents saying they would be able to save more riding on the tax-free income. Those fearing inflation has come down to 39 percent as of Friday when compared to 64 percent in 2018 Budget Exit Poll.
In the budget survey, CVoter India also enquired about aspirational income levels for a four-member average family. The responses varied according to the socio-economic parameters of the state concerned. Logically, the richer states registered higher income responses while the poorer ones made do with lower income responses. All along in the last 15 years, the annual amount narrated by Indians was much more than the taxable income stated by the Government of India. More than 80 percent respondents in the 15-year tracker have always maintained that this much money should be made tax-free. Union Budget 2019 is the first time in 15 years that the Budget Tracker is reporting the other way round. The annual desired income for an average middle-class living was stated around Rs 4 Lakhs for a family of four in this year's pre-budget survey. Now, with the tax rebate doubled to Rs 5 lakhs per annum, no wonder in the Post-Budget Exit Poll, almost 70 percent of respondents have expressed their satisfaction. To put the things in context, the satisfaction number with Modi Sarkaar Budget last year was a pathetic 44 percent, which was lower than the 46 percent given to the last budget of the Manmohan Singh government.
So, the political budget has certainly delivered its punch. Now it remains to be seen if this loud cheering gets converted into actual votes for Modi.
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Updated Date: Feb 02, 2019 08:16:07 IST