As expected in an election year, mayor Krishna Gaur presented a populist budget for 2013-14, putting no burden on the common. However, the most interesting budgetary 'provision' was her repeated references to Bairagarh area in her budget speech, firing speculation that she might be interested in contesting the state assembly elections from the area.
"We have come up with many schemes this year for the integrated development of the Bairagarh area," said the mayor allocating funds for a rose garden, a railway under-bridge, night shelters and even a food plaza. This, apart from Rs. 8 crore from the CM's Infrastrusture Fund for Bairagarh's holistic development.
This year the size of the proposed Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) budget is Rs. 1,900 crore, compared to Rs. 1,235 crore last year. However, the deficit continues to haunt the budget - this time the proposed deficit is to the tune of Rs. 89 crore. The size of the budget could worsen BMC's already doddering economy if the civic body fails to increase revenue and cut wasteful expenditure.
There has been no major hike or introduction of new taxes. There has been no change in water cess, integrated tax, property tax or urban development cess. For the holistic development of Bhopal, a city of 18 lakh people, the mayor provided just Rs. 3 crores. This is a crore down from her allocation under the same head in the 2012-23 budget.
In her nearly one hour long speech, sprinkled with poetic flourish, Gaur talked about the steps the BMC was taking to cut unnecessary expenditure and improve the corporation’s overall economy. One such way was -- from now on film productions shooting in Bhopal would be charged Rs. 2,000 per day as sanitation fee. Streamlining the recovery of taxes and other user charges, seeking more finances from the state government and the Centre, initiating projects with public-private partnership were some of the strategies that the BMC had to augment revenue, she said.
The Opposition Congress rubbished Gaur’s budget, fuming over the proposed reduction in the corporator ward development fund, and alleged that it had been designed for electoral advantage to the BJP. Congress corporator Shahid Ali alleged that it didn’t seem she was presenting the budget for the whole city. “The mayor gave so much space to Bairagarh area in her speech. Funds for myriad schemes. We suspect she might be readying to contest from the area,” he said, adding: “There is not much for the Old City. It is clear that this year the budget is totally an election budget, high on rhetoric and low on good economics.”
Congress spokesperson in BMC Girish Sharma termed the budget as “old wine in a new bottle.” He said: “This budget talks about imaginative income and real expenditure. It is just bad economics.”