Back in 2008, when I bought my first pair of wheels, the customary rides to the gas station were few and far in between. Then, I bought petrol worth Rs 500, and that’s the same today as well. Just that the frequency of these jaunts has doubled.
I then bought 12-odd litres of petrol with a 500-rupee-note. Today, that number has trickled to under 7 litres. And for the skyrocketing price of fuels, sky is the limit.
With a prayer on my lips and alacrity in my heart I hope that the Union Budget 2013 doesn’t heap any more grief on vehicle owners. Commuting in and out of the metros involves travelling thousands of kilometres every month and the price of travelling has just shot thanks to the deregulation of fossil fuel prices.
News from the ‘department of kitchen’ affairs isn’t rosy either. The only one who gained from the last budget speech was the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. It earned him a quadruple promotion that catapulted him into the ramparts of Raisina Hill. And the rest of the nation’s budget has tumbled downhill since.
The cap on number of subsidised cooking gas cylinders has dealt a knock-out punch on the aam aadmi’s wallet. And once again the spiralling cost of fuel has sent transport costs of vegetables and grocery into a tizzy. Savings have sadly come to a cropper.
Worth mentioning here is the rising price of onion, that conjured memories of the fag end of the last millennium. In 1998, I didn’t quite get what all the commotion over onion was. Well, sure the prices of the humble vegetable had risen to over almost ten-times of what people were used to paying at that time. “But doesn’t mom say this about everything,” I used to think to myself.
Almost fifteen years hence and a bit of understanding of the political nuances of the country has taught me that while the title of a Nuclear state ‘may’ earn the Indian PM some fear among the neighbouring countries, an onion can make him cry. The tuber prides itself as the most-coveted ingredient in all cuisines worldwide. And it also has earned itself some respect among poets who compare ‘layers within layers’ in a poem to similes, metaphors and, of course, to ‘onion-like-layering.’ It surely has the potential to terrorise politicians. Had Sylvia Plath been alive she would have conceded that the Indian onion’s layers possess far more underlying undertones than any of her works.
The recent rise in vegetable prices threatened to tumble the equilibrium of Indian middle-class’ household monthly budget that sits atop a knife edge every single month. And BJP would stand testament to the fact that an Indian voter sans savoury food items on his dinner table is a deadly anti-incumbent. With Assembly election likely in about six months in Delhi, Shiela Dikshit could learn this the hard way.
Those with limited sources of income and fixed salaries have found that the going has gotten really tough of late. I’m already seeing my friends crib whilst they plan to foot their bills with the salary increment that has yet not arrived in their bank accounts.
The combined four-pronged attack from travel, food, cooking fuel and rising price of day-to-day commodities has knocked the socks off many a household. And the budget could well be a make or break point for many who dream of owning a new car, gadget or home in this financial year.
And with General Elections looming large, and the PM and Chief Minister’s chair at stake, the Congress-led UPA government is likely to turn to the agriculture minister Sharad Pawar for some solution to rising food prices. Pawar, we have seen over the months, is not exactly pleased with his stature in the UPA. He has an axe to grind. He can’t dare to stop export of agricultural produces and displease the sizeable farmer vote bank in the country.
So, Mr. Finance Minister, this Budget speech of yours could well decide the future of your party and ruling coalition. As a dissident member of the aam-janta, I (like most of my brethren) am ever ready to wield the axe on the incumbents in power; because frankly, we blame all our misfortunes on those in power, or on the arrangement of planets in the cosmos on the day that we were born. And while we, after failing many a time and oft to placate the heavens with offerings made via astrologers and soothsayers, have learnt that the cosmos is really hard to please; we may not shy to take the ‘law into our own hands’ by venturing out to vote for the government of our choice - that which hasn’t broken its promises in the past ten years.