Elections in Karnataka are a little over an year away. But Karnataka Chief Minister S. Siddaramiah presented a populist budget with sops galore aimed at different sections of the society.
From 'namma canteens' modeled on Amma canteens in neighbouring Tamil Nadu which offer subsidised meals, abolishing VAT on liquor to capping prices of cinema tickets in multiplexes, promising new super specialty hospitals in five districts, to setting up of new airports in three more districts of the state, the budget -- which showed a small surplus -- had something for everybody.
With Karnataka being the largest state currently being ruled by the Congress party, Siddaramiah's populist budget has been tailored with an eye on polls. A senior bureaucrat said, "Since some of these projects and policies will take time to show impact on ground, CM was keen it be announced in the penultimate year of the current assembly, so its impact could be felt."
Siddaramiah is an old hand at managing the state's finances and this is a record 12th state budget that he is presenting. Even when he was with the Janata Dal, he had wielded the finance portfolio. The budget clearly shows that it has borrowed successful populist programmes from other states, like free laptops for engineering, medical and polytechnic students, apart from increasing the quantum of subsidised foodgrains provided to BPL card holders and shoes, socks and school dress for girl students.
The state government also has lavished some attention on the infrastructure needs of Bangalore. Widening of an existing flyover, under bridges to be built as well as 3000 flats to be constructed and sold by Bangalore Development Authority.
With BJP clearly eyeing southern states to expand its national footprint further, Siddaramiah's Congress government is keen to halt its march and come back to power again.