Karnataka Budget: Bommai Tries Thwarting BJP's Hurdles Before 2023 Election

Karnataka budget 2023-'24 reveals CM Basavaraj Bommai's attempt to help BJP in the upcoming Assembly polls.

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On Friday, 17 February, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai made a two-hour-long budget speech that hinted at the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) key focus areas in the upcoming Assembly election.

In a nutshell, while Karnataka budget for the year 2023-'24 is Rs 3.09 lakh crore, the gross borrowing was set at Rs 77,750 crore. The state recorded a 7.9 percent growth and its per capita income has increased from Rs 2.04 lakh to Rs 3.32 lakh.

However, the budget, which will be the last before the Assembly polls are held, had special provisions for farmers, an announcement on a Ram Mandir and some sops for Karnataka's ever powerful Lingayat mutts or monasteries and Hindu temples. The state's capital Bengaluru too remained a key focus area.

Here's why.


Provisions for farmers: Bommai announced Rs 25,000 crore towards loans for 30 lakh farmers. Additionally, the government has decided to increase the ceiling on interest-free loans to farmers from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. The state has also increased the size of the revolving fund – earmarked for grain procurement under Minimum Support Price in the event of a market crash – from Rs 2,000 crore to Rs 3,000 crore.

Why? The recent protests over Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) Committee Act, 2020, may have had a role to play in Bommai government's focus on farmers.

Farmers organisations have been up in arms against the government, in an election year, for not repealing the APMC Act, which were similar to the farm laws the Centre repealed in 2021. Karnataka farmers have maintained that the APMC Act will kill the government-regulated markets for farm produce sale.


Provisions for temples and mutts: The CM announced that a 'majestic Ram Mandir' will be built on Ramadevara Betta in Ramagara. Also, a total of Rs 425 crore was set aside for the renovation of temples and mutts. The state has also promised Rs 1,000 crore, which will be spent over the next two years, for temples and mutts.

Why? This aspect of the budget could be in line with the BJP's core Hindutva ideology and its demographic electoral calculations, as the Ram temple is expected to be similar to the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and Lingayats are a demographic unit the party wants to woo.

In the recent past, right-wing organisations, including the Bajrang Dal and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, have been exerting pressure on the government to improve its support for the core Hindu vote base by holding frequent protests and sending in numerous representations. Meanwhile, a section of the Lingayats – the Panchamasalis – have been asking for improved reservation benefits under 2A category of the Backward Classes list.


Provisions for Bengaluru: The state plans to invest heavily in Bengaluru, as it has set aside Rs 9,698 crore for boosting the city's infrastructure and roads. The budget has earmarked Rs 6,000 for infrastructure work in Bengaluru under the Amrutha Nagarothana Scheme. The state has provided Rs 1,813 crore for the development of 195 km of drainage and culverts in the city. Rs 273 crore was set aside for developing 108 km of roads.

Why? Bengaluru has been witnessing frequent protests by residents who have criticised the BJP government for not mending bad roads and poor urban infrastructure.

Recently, the Congress too had upped the ante by accusing the government of financial irregularities in commissioning infrastructure development projects. The development works commissioned for Bengaluru could be the BJP's way to thwart some of this criticism.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Bengaluru   Farmers    Temples 

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