On February 17 (Friday), Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai delivered a two-hour budget speech, indicating the key focus areas of the BJP in the upcoming assembly elections. Karnataka’s budget for the year 2023-2024 is Rs 3.09 lakh crore. The state has registered a growth of 7.9 per cent and its per capita income has increased from Rs 2.04 lakh to Rs 3.32 lakh.
The budget includes special provisions for farmers, big announcement on Ram temple and some concessions for Lingayat maths and Hindu temples in Karnataka. A special amount has been allocated in the budget for the capital Bengaluru as well.
Provision for farmers: Bommai announced Rs 25,000 crore for loans for 30 lakh farmers. In addition, the government has decided to increase the limit 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 procurement of food grains under the MSP in case of a market downturn – from Rs 2,000 crore to Rs 3,000 crore.
Why? The recent protests over the Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) Committee Act, 2020 may have a role in the Bommai government’s focus on farmers.
In the election year, farmer organizations have opened a front against the government for not repealing the APMC Act, which was similar to the agricultural laws repealed by the Center in 2021. Farmers in Karnataka had said that the APMC Act would end the government regulated market for selling agricultural produce.
Provision for temples and maths: The CM announced that a ‘magnificent Ram temple’ would be built at Ramdevara Betta in Ramnagar. Also, a total of Rs 425 crore has been set aside for the renovation of temples and monasteries.
The state government has also promised Rs 1,000 crore, which will be spent on temples and maths over the next two years.
Why? This aspect of the budget may be in line with BJP’s core Hindutva ideology and its demographic electoral calculations, as the “Ram Mandir” is expected to be similar to the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, thereby wooing the Lingayat community.
In recent days, right-wing organizations including Bajrang Dal and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti have been pressuring the government to improve its support for the Hindu vote base by holding frequent protests. Meanwhile, a section of Lingayats—the Panchamsalis—are demanding better reservation benefits under category 2A of the Backward Classes list.
Provision for Bengaluru: The state government has planned to invest heavily in Bengaluru. A provision of Rs 9,698 crore has been made to repair the city’s infrastructure and roads. Rs 6,000 has been earmarked for infrastructure work in Bengaluru under the “Amrut Nagarrotthan Yojana” in the budget.
The government has provided Rs 1,813 crore for the development of 195 km of drainage and culverts in the city. Rs 273 crore has been set aside for the development of 108 km of roads.
Why? There have been frequent protests against the government in Bengaluru for not fixing bad roads and urban infrastructure. Recently, the Congress also hit out at the government, alleging financial irregularities in commissioning infrastructure development projects. The development works initiated for Bengaluru could be the BJP’s way of countering this criticism.