ear Piyush Goyal, I’m the Indian middle class.
For the longest time, we felt like Arbaaz in the Khan family and veg biryani at a Punjabi wedding – ignored. We were trampled upon like balloons at a five-year-old’s birthday party. We couldn’t emulate India’s rich elite and flee the country in chartered planes despite being bankrupt, nor could we afford to spend an entire day at Jantar Mantar protesting, because we would lose a day’s salary if we clock in even five minutes late to work. By working 14 hours a day, following the rule of law, and paying our taxes regularly, we became the smallest “minority” in the country – the honest taxpayer! Yet, there was no political campaigning directed toward us. The rich got favourable court verdicts and easy loans, the poor got their fair share of waivers and subsidies, the religious lot was won over with promises of mandirs and masjids, and all we, the humble middle-class got was… babaji ka thullu.
After each budget, we watched thousands of crores being distributed like chakna at a cheap bar, in schemes with awful acronyms and populist yojanas directed at specific voter groups. We were happy for our fellow countrymen benefitting from these schemes, but all this time we were secretly hoped, “Apna time aayega.” But just like Parthiv Patel’s career, apna time nahi aaya.
So many benefits for the middle-class in the same budget? We had to check the television for audio glitches and pinch each other to ensure that this wasn’t a dream.
We were battered, bruised, and had lost all faith. When you, Mr Goyal, took the podium to deliver the interim budget, we felt like the Delhi Daredevils, knowing that this was going to be another disappointing year. But we were proved wrong. For once, you exceeded expectations.
When the announcement was made that there would be tax relief for those earning an income of up to ₹5 lakh, we finally felt like acche din aa gaye. We middle-class folks felt the same emotion Sourav Ganguly felt when he waved his jersey after the final of the NatWest Series in 2002. Even children (and IT engineers) who never managed to have any taxable income celebrated the move. The last time so many middle-class people rooted for something with such unity, a guy with a blue Wagon R and red muffler became the chief minister of Delhi and Baba Ramdev had to flee the event draped in a saree.
However, the party wasn’t over and another announcement was soon made – that standard deduction would be raised from ₹40,000 to ₹50,000. Then came one more sop, followed by another, and two more, all affecting the middle-class positively. So many benefits for the middle-class in the same budget? We had to check the television for audio glitches and pinch each other to ensure that this wasn’t a dream. While members in Parliament were shouting “Modi! Modi!” and thumping wooden desks to show their approval, the middle-class showed their appreciation in the most middle class way possible, by sharing Whatsapp forwards about the tax announcements and having an extra gulab jamun in their meal.
We are aware that you did this for our votes, Mr Goyal. In India, everything from a mandir to an LPG cylinder is about the ballot box. But like Sharman Joshi in the Golmaal series, we’re just happy knowing there’s someone out there watching us. Over the years, we have felt as alienated as Anna Hazare’s dietician. But that changed today, and we thank you Mr FinMin, our knight in shining armour. You are the man who finally addressed the smallest minority in the country, proving that #MiddleClassLivesMatter.
A Middle-Class Salaried Employee