With eye on polls, Karnataka CM presents a populist budget

With polls in Karnataka a little more than a year away, Chief Minister S. Siddaramiah presented a populist budget that has sops galore for all sections of the society.

With polls in Karnataka a little more than a year away, Chief Minister S. Siddaramiah presented a populist budget that has sops galore for all sections of the society. From 'namma canteens' modelled on Amma canteens in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, which offer subsidised meals, and abolition of VAT on liquor to capping prices of movie tickets in multiplexes, promising super speciality hospitals in five districts and proposing new airports in three more districts, the state budget--which shows a small surplus--has something for everybody.

As Karnataka is the largest state currently ruled by a Congress government, Siddaramiah's populist budget has been tailored to give his party an edge in the coming polls.

"Since some of these projects and policies will take time to show impact on the ground, the Chief Minister was keen to announce them in the penultimate year so that their impact could be felt," said a senior bureaucrat who did not want to be named.

Siddaramiah is an old hand at managing the state's finances and this is a record 12th state budget he has presented. Even when he was with the Janata Dal, he had wielded the finance portfolio. The current budget clearly shows it has borrowed successful populist programmes from other states such as free laptops for engineering, medical and polytechnic students, apart from increasing the quantum of subsidised foodgrains provided to BPL card holders and promising more shoes, socks and school uniforms for girl students.

The state government has also lavished its attention on the infrastructural requirements of Bengaluru. Key projects include widening of an existing flyover, building bridges and construction of 3,000 flats, to be built and sold by Bangalore Development Authority.

With the BJP eyeing the southern states to expand its national footprint further, Siddaramiah-led Congress government is all the more keen to halt its march and come back to power in the next state election.