In the run-up to the election, expected sometime in May, the Congress has been engaged in a game of populist chicken with the BJP. A few days ago the main opposition party announced its intent to roll out a universal basic income programme for the poor, almost immediately sparking doubts over its feasibility.

While Goyal did not include any such provisions, he announced a new mega pension scheme for workers in the organised and unorganised sectors, guaranteeing them a monthly income of Rs3,000 when they retired.

Another dramatic move was the sweeping tax cuts for the middle class. While previously, the cutoff for tax exemption was at an annual income of Rs2.5 lakh, a full rebate will now be extended up to earnings of Rs5 lakh.

Even taxpayers with an annual gross income of up to Rs6.5 lakh can now be tax-exempt, Goyal said, if they invest their money in tax-saving schemes and provident funds.

Goyal claimed that around 30 million middle-class taxpayers would get relief from this change.

He also spent ample time praising the ruling BJP government’s five-year term, saying it had “set the stage for decades of high growth.” The interim finance minister said the government’s Saubhagya Yojana scheme had helped ensure nearly all households have electricity, and the Ujjwala Yojana scheme had provided 80 million households with cooking-gas connections.

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