The 'frail finances' of Andhra Pradesh was an issue fervently discussed during the budget session and the treasury benches led by chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu painted a grim picture of the state revenues, pleading immediate transfer of funds from the Centre.
Yet on Friday, the last day of the session, all 225 MLAs and MLCs of the state legislature walked out cheerfully with a gift of latest iPhone 6 in one hand and Tirupati laddus in the other.
The iPhone largesse has cost the exchequer about Rs. 1.25 crore. This jamboree comes at a time when the government has claimed to be suffering a deficit of about Rs 15, 000 crore and is going for an overdraft from the RBI for resources to run the state.
The tradition of budget session gifts for legislators is nothing new and was prevalent even before the bifurcation of the state.
The expensive gifts were handed out to the lawmakers even as Naidu asked the common man to make sacrifices for the new state and sought donations for the new capital.
This extravaganza is nothing new. During the first budget session of new Andhra last year, legislators were given iPads and printers – the bill for which ran close to Rs 1 crore.
Interestingly, YSR Congress Party MLAs - who differed with the ruling side on every aspect like land-pooling for the capital, new irrigation projects and power tariff hike and almost came to blows with TDP MLAs - saw nothing wrong with the splurge.
"Agreed the situation is not good, but would my one iPhone worsen the financial position? I mean the state budget is Rs 1.13 lakh crore, what is Rs 1.2 crore before it?" one MLA wanted to know.
Finance officials, however, are a worried lot who say the signal such extravagance could send to the Narendra Modi government, which has not yet committed on the amount of assistance or a special status to the state, could be a negative one.
"On the one hand we are requesting for money from the Centre and on the other we are indulging in such lavishness. This is nothing but fiscal imprudence," a senior department official told HT.
The state is also not avoiding populist measures. In January, it gifted every BPL family with a Sankranti hamper which cost over Rs 300 crore.