Siddaramaiah has last laugh as CM retains old budget

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah leafs through the budget copy during the presentation of the state budget. Government Chief Whip Ganesh Hukkeri is seen. DH Photo

Coalition partner Congress, especially former chief minister Siddaramaiah, has had the last laugh as Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has been forced to retain the previous Congress government’s February 2018 budget almost in its entirety. 

Siddaramaiah’s pet schemes - Anna Bhagya, Ksheera Bhagya, Krishi Bhagya, Mathru Poorna among others - will continue. In fact, Kumaraswamy said everything Siddaramaiah had announced in his February 2018 budget will be continued. 

The 'arm twisting' has resulted in Kumaraswamy re-prioritising implementation of the Congress schemes. 

Siddaramaiah had publicly said Kumaraswamy need not present a full-fledged budget as he had already done so. A supplementary budget would suffice if at all Kumaraswamy wanted to announce new programmes, Siddaramaiah had said, creating a furore that left Kumaraswamy fuming.

A leaked video footage that was aired showed Siddaramaiah frowning upon Kumaraswamy’s plan to go ahead with a full-fledged budget, causing further heartburn.  

Kumaraswamy could not put up a convincing defence when asked how his budget was a full-fledged one. “This is a full-fledged budget,” he asserted and said, “It will be implemented along with the one Siddaramaiah presented in February.” He pointed out that the two budgets were different in that his budget’s size was Rs 2.18 lakh crore whereas Siddaramaiah’s was Rs 2.09 lakh crore.

Kumaraswamy’s budget has left sectoral allocations made in the previous budget untouched. For instance, there is no mention of the outlay for Minorities Welfare in the budget. “That doesn’t mean there’s no allocation at all. Siddaramaiah has given enough allocation for development of minority communities. All that will continue,” Kumaraswamy said.

The chief minister pointed out that his budget mentioned construction of a ring road in Hassan under the Public Works Department (PWD). “This doesn’t mean there’s no allocation for PWD. Whatever programmes were announced in the February budget will continue. I did not print details of all departments once again as that would have taken me six hours to read,” he said.

Kumaraswamy’s budget is “an accidental budget,” according to political scientist Muzaffar Assadi. “It looks like an extension of Siddaramaiah’s budget purely because the Congress and the JD(S) have ideological overlaps, which prevented Kumaraswamy from presenting an entirely new budget,” he said.

A minister belonging to the Congress, requesting anonymity, said Kumaraswamy’s choices were limited as the Coalition Coordination and Monitoring Committee had decided that all of the Congress’ schemes would continue. 

However, Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge said one must look at the positives in the budget. “You can call this budget as an extension because the two parties are in it together. But if you look at it closely, there’s high impetus on industries, social welfare and of course, agriculture.”

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Siddaramaiah has last laugh as CM retains old budget

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