Is the pressure showing on Siddramaiah, the chief minister of Karnataka, after the results of the latest Assembly election came out on March 11?
On Tuesday (March 15), the Congress government of the state presented its final budget before the next Assembly elections in 2018 and it was all about unabashed populism.
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Siddramaiah didn't even hesitate to borrow ideas from the late chief minister of neighbouring Tamil Nadu – J Jayalalithaa – while presenting his budget.
He introduced Namma Canteen after the late AIADMK leader's Amma Canteen. The price of liquor was slashed as VAT was lifted; prices of film tickets were checked; free water was promised to slums; and even breakfast and lunch/dinner were promised at Rs 5/10, respectively.
Speaking to International Business Times, India, Karnataka Congress general secretary NS Boseraj called the budget "excellent" and said its aim was universal.
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"This government has worked for overall development. It has kept the need of each section in its mind while making the budget. This is a development budget, no doubt," he said.
He also added that the budget was not aimed at elections, but development.
This raises a counter-question: Is this really the way to development?
The Siddaramaiah government perhaps made its desperation too obvious by announcing a budget of this sort.
In a state where water scarcity is a major problem, on what grounds does the government promise free water to slums? What is the economic thinking behind limiting prices of film tickets? Are prices of film tickets or liquor a big deal in Karnataka and Bengaluru?
Sources in the state Congress have tried to play down the pressure factor after the party's annihilation in UP and Uttarakhand, saying the politics of the southern state is different from the North. If it is indeed different, then why did Siddaramaiah play the same populist card that Akhilesh Singh Yadav was seen playing in UP a few months back?
Development is not about populism, which can only be promised, but never fulfilled. If the Congress leadership in Karnataka really thought on the lines of promoting development over the last four years, then this blatant populist budget wouldn't have been required.
It's all about the last-ditch effort to save the face next year. But will it really help Siddaramaiah save the Congress throne?
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