HDK’s budget: shun populist temptation

JDS MLA and Former CM HD Kumarswamy addressing press conference at Vidhan Soudha, in Bengaluru on Friday 15th July 2016. Photo/ B H ShivakumarH D Kumaraswamy

Budgets are not just financial statements and projections but political documents and expressions of intent, too. A budget represents a government’s economic, social and political philosophy and ideas and often, overriding these, its electoral plans and hopes. Governments are known to think more about how their budget proposals would impact particular constituencies of the electorate positively or negatively than how they would affect the economy. This is natural and even necessary to some extent in a democracy. That is why governments that come to power in a new financial year want to present their own budgets, though their predecessors may have undertaken budgetary exercises before the elections. The JD(S)-Congress government in Karnataka also wants to present a new budget, though former chief minister Siddaramaiah had presented the Congress government’s budget in February. Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy has made this clear and has started consultations on the matter. 

Siddaramaiah had presented a full-fledged budget of over Rs 2 lakh crore. This was not the norm for a government going into an election, though there is no legal bar on it. The opposition BJP had criticised this but that party’s government had also presented a budget before the 2013 assembly elections. Siddaramaiah had presented his budget after coming to power then. In a technical sense, the Congress government’s budget presented this year was a vote on account, and the new government can present a fresh budget. Kumaraswamy is exercising that prerogative and following the 2013 precedent. He had also criticised Siddaramaiah’s budget earlier this year. That may have been the posturing of an opposition leader but now, he has the opportunity to formulate his own proposals and to present them. However, Kumaraswamy has said that the welfare schemes proposed and implemented by the previous government would continue and the new budget would only propose new programmes. 

Siddaramaiah’s budget was a please-all one. It was election-oriented, too, however much he denied it. But it is doubtful if it was of much use or help for the Congress party in the elections. There is another election in sight in 2019 for the two parties, and they are planning to fight it together. There will be temptation for the government to resort to populism and offer goodies and sops to the voters, instead of taking effective steps to improve the economy. But the government should take a realistic view of the needs of the state as a whole and frame its proposals on that basis. People know that what is good for the state is good for them, and they cannot be taken for a ride with empty rhetoric and populist measures. 

 

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HDK’s budget: shun populist temptation

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