Sops include cheap liquor, cheaper movie tickets and breakfast for just Rs 5
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah turned populist in his last budget ahead of the assembly elections next year, announcing infrastructure projects for Bengaluru, replicating Amma's canteen, the affordable food outlet for urban workers and over Rs 6,000 crore grant to OBC, SC and ST Communities.
The budget proposal comes at a time when Karnataka's GDP is expected to grow slower to 6.9 per cent from 7.3 per cent on account of decline in growth in service and manufacturing. The services sector, largely the software export sector, expects to grow to 8.5 per cent, down from 10.4 per cent last year. Industrial growth is expected to reduce by half to 2.2 per cent from over 4.9 per cent last year.
This did not dither Siddaramaiah from rolling out sops, including cutting down taxes on beer and wine and capping movie tickets at Rs 200. He also announced several infrastructure projects for Bengaluru, a city that is plagued with challenges, including roads, public toilets and pavements.
The highlight was the Namma canteen, a plan to provide urban workers in every locality breakfast for Rs 5 and Rs 10 for lunch and dinner in every, replicating a hugely successful model by former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa that helped her return to power with a huge majority. He also said laptops would be given to 1.5-lakh students joining engineering, medical, polytechnic and degree colleges across the state in the new academic year.
"We have waived Rs.2,359 crore towards crop loans availed by 10.7-lakh farmers from cooperative societies since 2013-14 as against Rs.940 crore waiver given to 4 lakh farmers from July 1, 2011 to July 25, 2012 by the previous (BJP government)," said Siddaramaiah, taking a dig at the previous BJP government that was riddled with scams and lost power due to its own contradictions.
Siddaramaiah is leading the last big state for Congress, which he won in 2013 by capitalising on the negative sentiments against the BJP. The influence of Reddy brothers on chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, corruption charges against leaders led to the downfall.
The Congress party is facing similar charges with opposition leaders saying that Karnataka has become the party's cash cow for its campaigns in other states and infighting among leaders. Siddaramaiah will face test for his leadership in April, when bypolls are held for two assembly constituencies in Mysuru, the region he has a stronghold.
"Last four years of our journey was not a bed of roses. We are facing an adverse situation because of slump in economic activities, including drought since two years and recent demonetisation, which is being countered through fiscal discipline, commitment to resource mobilisation and efficient administration," said Siddaramaiah presenting his 12th budget as the state's finance minister and fourth as the chief minister since May 2013.
The budget has earmarked Rs 600 crore in FY 2018 to provide protective irrigation to crops during the critical stages to combat drought and obtain higher income.