‘Fine balance’, ‘reinforces perception that govt bats for affluent’: How papers covered budget

Prominent English dailies noted that the expectation that the budget would be populist was not fulfilled.

ByTanishka Sodhi
‘Fine balance’, ‘reinforces perception that govt bats for affluent’: How papers covered budget
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With a tax regime revision and emphasis on capex, the first budget of ‘Amrit Kaal’ sprang a few surprises ahead of an election year. India’s pink papers noted that the expectation that it would be populist was not fulfilled.

Most prominent dailies hailed the budget as a balanced act with relief for the middle class. However, there was a fair share of criticism too. The Business Standard, for example, noted how a “sense of mild euphoria lasts long enough” for most people to “ignore any messages surfacing subsequently from the budget’s fine print”.

The cuts in health and education funding were also noted. The Hindu Business Line said capex cannot be about physical infrastructure alone if the country is to reap its demographic dividend.

Let’s take a look at what the papers said.


Titled “value for money”, the editorial on the HT Media paper’s jacket page concluded that Sitharaman had struck a “fine balance” by giving significant relief to the salaried class without going overboard in her last full budget before the 2024 general elections.  

The longer editorial on the inside pages was headlined “maximum government may well be here to stay”. It mentioned how the budget privileges static projects over market orientation reveals a political preference.

Financial Express

“Dessert without revdi” was the headline to the paper’s front page lead. The editorial in the inside pages, meanwhile, concluded that this was a budget with something for everybody – small enterprises, farmers and youth. The editorial said this was a “credible” budget that brought much-needed relief to middle-class households, benefits to small entrepreneurs, and had a growth impetus. 

The paper noted that the casualties of capex heavy lifting were the health and education sectors, neither of which saw an increase in allocations.

Indian Express 

“Her balancing act: Won’t tax, will spend” was the headline to the lead package on the front page. A long editorial on the inside page noted that the budget did not stray away from the path of fiscal consolidation. While noting that this was a budget with few giveaways, it said that perhaps the Modi government was conserving the gunpowder for another day as elections draw nearer. It cited the example of how the PM Kisan scheme was launched outside the budget, in December 2018, four months before the general elections.

Economic Times

The front had union home minister Amit Shah’s byline, with unsurprising praises of India’s economy and growth – all credits to “visionary” Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The front page’s lead package was headlined “capex fix for global gloom”, with two pieces, including Shah’s. The lead report noted that this is not an election budget with freebies. It also observed that this “well-balanced” budget did not cheer stock markets. 

Hindu Business Line 

The editorial noted that this was a “remarkably workmanlike, fiscally responsible budget” with prudence over populism. However, it made note of how health and education were ostensibly given a miss in terms of outlay. It said capital spending cannot be about physical infrastructure alone if the country is to reap its demographic dividend.

Business Standard

The paper’s editorial was a little more critical than the other pink papers, and started with how finance ministers had become adept at managing initial reactions to each year’s budget presentation – “creating a sense of mild euphoria in the stock market and TV studios, which lasts long enough for most people to ignore any messages surfacing subsequently from the budget’s fine print. In this case, it was the cuts in income-tax rates.”

The Hindu

In its editorial, the paper observed the budget gives more to the affluent than to the poor. “The biggest beneficiaries of the income tax changes though are likely to be those in the highest income bracket, where the effective rate has been cut by 3.74 percentage points reinforcing a perception that this government bats for the affluent.”

Hindustan Times

The editorial noted how the budget was expected to be completely populist but wasn’t. It went on to list five takeaways, saying that this is a significant departure from the “purely populist document many analysts and commentators expected”. 

Times of India 

The paper did not hold back any praises in its editorial, which noted that this was probably the best budget “since 2014” and was economically smart, reflected political confidence, and fiscally credible. 

Focus on Adani

However, as markets crashed despite what was hailed as a balanced budget, the Adani Group and the scrapping of its FPO nearly stole the show. Most newspapers ran the Adani announcement about scrapping its fully subscribed FPO on their front pages. But while this development did not overshadow the budget coverage in the newspapers, it has now replaced the budget as the talking point on Thursday.


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