Unfulfilled promises, lack of new projects loom large over Karnataka government
- The lack of visible schemes and programmes aimed at mitigating the plight of the people in the calamity-prone state is likely to weigh in on the performance of the Karnataka government.
Karnataka chief minister B.S.Yediyurappa is scheduled to present the state budget for 2021-22 on March 8 even as the cloud of poor expenditure numbers, lack of infrastructure and failure to fulfil projects and schemes announced in the previous budget looms large over the two-year-old government.
While the government claims to have performed to the “best of their abilities” given the financial constraints during the previous year, the lack of visible schemes and programmes aimed at mitigating the plight of the people in the calamity-prone state is likely to weigh in on the performance of the government.
“Whether it is roads, water or jobs under MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), we have performed exceedingly well,” KS Eshwarappa, Karnataka’s minister for rural employment and panchayat raj (RDPR), said.
He said that the ‘Grameena Sumarga’, a scheme for the construction of rural roads, was probably the only one impacted due to the fund crunch.
The sentiment, however, is not shared by the opposition or BJP’s own legislators, who complain over the lack of work in their respective constituencies.
“It is our government only in name. There is absolutely no work happening in our constituency,” said a BJP legislator, requesting anonymity.
At least two other BJP legislators mirrored the sentiment, adding that turncoat ministers and even the opposition party legislators were given more preference than core-party workers, who had helped the party get 104 seats in the 2018 elections.
Several BJP legislators have met the central leadership in the past months to express their concerns about the state government that has further soured relations between Yediyurappa and the party high command.
Already under pressure over rising dissent, factionalism, scandals and a threat to this own term in the top office, Yediyurappa has struggled to find a balance to manage expectations of the state as well as to initiate schemes that would not just help his own political goals but also that of the party that faces the assembly polls in 2023.
According to 2020-21 budget estimates, Karnataka was set to lose at least ₹20,000 crore due to reduction in share of central taxes, goods and services tax (GST) and the new calculations, under the 15th Finance Commission, have reduced the state’s share from 4.71% to 3.64%.
“If they have borrowed double the permissible limit, it probably makes up for more than the loss of revenues. So where has this money gone?” Krishna Byre Gowda, former minister and Congress legislator, asked.
He said the reduction in revenue was a narrative spun by the government to make up for its non-performance.
The government has expressed its helplessness repeatedly but has so far only passively pursued the Centre to release funds for flood relief and other financial help to sustain itself.
Yediyurappa had increased cess on petrol, diesel and on liquor to mitigate the fund-crunch at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
The government is likely to feel the pinch of the fund-crunch as demands by labour-intensive sectors like Anganwadi workers, civic workers in Bengaluru, transport corporation workers among other sections intensify agitation seeking higher wages.
Revenue expenditure or payment of salaries, servicing loans and pension payouts account for a lion’s share of the state’s earnings and the BJP government had estimated an increase of approximately ₹10,000 crore for 2020-21.
Departments like RDPR, which depend on central and state grants, have shown an expenditure of over 90%.
Irrigation and industries department expenditure is also near 100%, at least three senior government officials said.
Yediyurappa has spent a better portion of his two-year tenure as CM trying to douse one crisis after another, including dissent, dissatisfaction over cabinet berths and uncertainty over his continuation in the top chair among other challenges with little time dedicated for new schemes or developments. He has focused on setting up caste-specific boards that have been criticised by the opposition and even challenged in courts.
Yediyurappa had announced an additional assistance of ₹4,000 along with the ₹6,000 announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government to small and marginal farmers under the “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Scheme”.
The pitiable state of roads and infrastructure in Bengaluru, the state’s growth engine and India’s IT capital, paints a poor picture of the government.
The 2020-21 budget had allocated ₹8,344 crore for the city’s development.
“There are no schemes that have some recall value that have been announced in the budget. Soon after the budget, the lockdown has washed away the memory of most of the announcements made in the budget,” said a political analyst, who did not wish to be named.