The decision to delay the passage of the budget until after state elections this spring has Indian pundits wondering whether the Congress party is watching the results for a chance to call for early national polls, India's Mint newspaper reports.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, and four other states—Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur—will hold state assembly elections prior to March 4.
If things look good for the Congress after the results come in, the logic runs, the government would present a feel-good populist budget and immediately call for elections in March, the paper says.
Investors like stability, of course. But early polls could well be a good thing for fans of action, as they could help the Congress shed recalcitrant allies like Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, which have actually prevented the government from passing legislation that it wanted, like opening up the retail sector to FDI.
Analysts maintain that if the Congress wins elections in Punjab and Uttarakhand, where an anti-incumbency factor favours the party, and succeeds in reviving its electoral prospects in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, the verdict will boost morale. The resulting political momentum can be harnessed to provide a fresh start on key policy initiatives that are presently in limbo or could consider going in for a fresh mandate.
The UPA, which returned to power for a second straight time with an impressive electoral victory in 2009, has not been able to implement any of its reform agenda. Many policy initiatives and legislation, including the goods and services tax, direct taxes code and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), have been delayed due to disagreement among alliance partners and opposition-ruled states.