HP govt goes populist before polls

The ruling Congress in Himachal Pradesh seems to have gone populist ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The fund-starved government, which is already reeling under the ever-swelling wage bill, announced a fat financial bonanza to woo three lakh employees and over one lakh pensioners.

At the same time, the government is moving to regularize over 12,600 illegal constructions in the state.

Political observers say in a controversial move, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh introduced a bill in the assembly to amend the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Act of 1977 to regularise unauthorised constructions.

But expecting a backlash from the main opposition BJP, the chief minister at the last moment decided not to go ahead with it. 

The assembly Friday referred to the House committee the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill, 2014.

The move left the BJP members stumped. 

“The government can easily get the bill passed as it has its majority in the House. With his masterstroke the chief minister at the last moment decided not to pass the bill in the absence of BJP. Now he can claim that the government was keen to regularise the constructions but not the BJP,” said a senior Congress minister.

The BJP, on the last day of the budget session Friday, also boycotted the assembly.Introducing the amendment bill, Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma said the amendment was necessitated as the “High Court had taken a serious notice of the grim situation and asked the government not to regularise the total unauthorised constructions”.

The minister said demolition of such large scale unauthorised construction was neither feasible nor practicable.

 To woo the common man, especially employees, the chief minister presented a populist but deficit Rs 23,613 crore budget for 2014-15 with no new taxes.

The chief minister, who also holds the finance portfolio, announced a 10 per cent dearness allowance from July 1 last year for government employees and pensioners.

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