All eyes are on deputy chief minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar who in his role as the state finance minister will be presenting his first state budget on Wednesday.
High hopes pinned on Pawar who chose to keep the finance department with himself after he became the deputy CM with regards to the state budget for 2011-2012. The state had put forth Rs33,984-crore development plan in 2010-2011.
“Our major concern is how the state will get out of the debt trap that is increasing every year. We are waiting to see how the government is going to handle the Rs2.1 lakh crore debt on which it is paying almost Rs16,000 crore interest,” said Bharatiya Janata Party MLC Vinod Tawde.
The state debt has been on the rise since 1999 and has risen by Rs1.11 lakh crore since 2003-04 due to huge interest payments and salaries.
Also looking for their share in the development pie are city legislators. “Last year, our hopes were crushed after a minuscule amount was set aside for the city. The state needs to concentrate on critical project upgrades rather than keep showing us central funds that come in for projects like the BRIMSTOWAD,” said Shiv Sena MLA Ravindra Waikar.
The Opposition is, however, expected to pull up the government for lack of financial discipline. “ If the supplementary records are anything to go by, there is a huge need for some financial discipline. This is a cause of worry,” said BJP MLA Devendra Fadnavis after the supplementary budgetary demands were tabled during the session last week. An extra allocation of Rs23,223 crore - almost 18% of the budgeted amount - was additionally allocated to departments.
The issues of price rise, housing for poor, agriculture sops for farmers, power cuts, security in naxal areas, improving healthcare, and expanding scope of education are some priority areas that the Opposition feels should be addressed.
Meanwhile, the Congress fears that Pawar will favour departments headed by NCP ministers. Several major departments, including home, energy, rural development, irrigation, higher and technical education, food and civil supplies, are with the NCP.
A few days ago, several Congress legislators met the CM to discuss the issue.