The Modi government’s maiden budget today announced that cathode ray tube television sets (CRT) will get cheaper.
“Cathode ray TVs are used by weaker sections who cannot afford to buy more expensive flat panel TVs. I propose to exempt colour picture tubes from basic customs duty to make cathode ray TVs cheaper,” Jaitley said in his budget speech.
He also added that to this duty concession will help revive manufacturing of TVs in the SME sector and create employment opportunities.
Where LCD and LED Tvs below 19-inches are concerned, the government hopes to encourage their production in India. Jaitley announced a reduction in basic customs duty on LCD and LED TV panels that are less than 19 inches in size from 10 percent to zero. Further, to encourage the manufacture of LCD and LED TV panels, they will be exempt from basic customs duty as well.
The sops for televisions should be seen as part of a larger Modi government agenda to woo the NRMB aka ‘the sandwiched class’. Ironically the term was compiled by the Congress as part of its election strategy and stands for ‘not rich, not middle-class, not BPL’.
As this Times of India report points out Rahul Gandhi had hoped to win over nearly 70 crore people who belong to NRMB group in the elections.
The report adds, “Rahul had hoped to mobilise the support of a section that the party sees as a vote that could be lured by BJP leader Narendra Modi’s promise of a ‘better tomorrow’”.
Calculations had led the Rahul-team in Congress to believe that this group, which earns approximately Rs 960 a month on an average, was the one they needed to target. After “garibi hatao”, where Congress had tried to project itself as the saviour of the poor and it’s ‘Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke sath’ mode of campaign, Rahul was hoping to woo a group that has completely different expectations. Given that the ‘aam aadmi’ now wants liberalisation and was sick of the SOPs being to the poor, Rahul of course had not alternative but to look elsewhere.
Representational Image. AFPRepresentational Image. AFP
Essentially NRMB included people who earn “between Rs 1000 to Rs 15,000.” The TOI report added “Congress sources argue that it is the in-between NRMBs who need most attention as the BPL have schemes like rural employment guarantee and food security…”
In contrast to Rahul, Modi in 2012 victory had already spoken about this class, calling them the ‘neo-middle class,’ and thanked them for their support. As the piece in The Indian Express by political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot argued that Modi appealed to “an urban class with eroding caste identities, increasing religiosity.”
He noted, “Modi is able to rally around the party what he calls a ‘neo-middle class’, which is made up of newcomers to the urban economy… they have hopes of a brighter future. The ‘neo-middle class’ is an aspiring category.”
And perhaps with Modi’s strong hold over this neo-middle class, the one that is highly aspirational, Rahul too aimed for the NRMB: a group on the precipice of being middle-class with perhaps the right push.
A group that the Congress hoped to peddle the right dreams to. As this report in The Hindu noted, “By engaging with this section — railway porters, rickshaw wallas, saltpan workers, fishermen etc. — not defined by caste or religion but by income and aspiration, Mr. Gandhi is trying to build a new constituency for the Congress that has seen its core constituencies being eroded steadily over the years.”‘
Sadly for Rahul the NRMB group wasn’t too impressed by his speeches and instead went with the Modi wave. And now it seems the PM with his TV sops has offered something solid to that class. Reducing the cost of CRT TVs, which are often bought by these groups will obviously been seen a major brownie point for PM Modi’s government. After all, for many NRMB homes, a television set is still the most important source of entertainment and the most expensive electronic item in the house.

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