As the Lok Sabha election is around the corner, various state governments that have announced their 2018-19 budgets so far, have been seen doling out 'populist budgets' targeting large voter sections, especially farmers and women.
The BJP-ruled Maharashtra's state budget presented on Thursday was a farmers' delight as the state finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar allocated Rs 3,115.21 crore for 26 irrigation projects to build farm ponds and wells under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) in the drought hit areas of the state. In the recent months, the state capital Mumbai had witnessed massive protest rallies of farmers suffering from drought and resultant crop losses in North and Central Maharashtra. The budget awarded the water resource department with Rs 8,233.13 crore and a special Rs 1,500 crore was given for the Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan, a water conservation programme launched by the state three years ago.
Overall, the agricultural department was allocated the maximum, with Rs 18,000 crore that includes Rs 432 crore for drip irrigation, Rs 160 crore to dig wells and farm ponds, Rs 100 crore each for organic farming and horticulture. The state will also give electric connections to 93,322 agricultural pump sets at a cost of Rs 750 crore. While the state has promised nearly Rs 9000 crore for the tribals, over Rs 2,500 crore will be spent on building roads in rural areas. While roads in the state were given over Rs 10,000 crore, power was another key priority with nearly Rs 8000 crore in the state budget. It lacked any major announcements targeting the middle class and urban crowd, generally regarded as a vote bank for the BJP and allies.
In the 2014 election, BJP and its ally Shiv Sena had swept 42 out of the 48 seats in the state. But the latest opinion polls indicate an erosion of seats for them.
In the nearby state of Goa, which has just 2 Lok Sabha seats, the ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday had presented a Rs 455 crore revenue surplus budget, with focus on areas like agriculture, education, health, information technology, employment, infrastructure etc.
Down South, the Communist parties ruled Kerala's budget showered crores of rupees for the welfare of woman and pensioners. The state budget presented on Thursday by the Finance Minister Issac Thomas was benevolent to give Rs 1420 crore for women empowerment and another Rs 1000 crore for Kudumbashree, a women empowerment and poverty eradication programme of the state government.A state that spends over 60 per cent of its revenues on pension and salary to government officials, Kerala hiked all welfare pensions from minimum Rs 1100 to Rs 1200 with a total outlay of Rs 7533 crore. While the state FM allocated Rs 6000 crore for the tourism linked 'spices route', the farm lands of Kuttanad in Aalappuzha were given Rs 1000 crore as special package, Rs 500 crore as support price for rubber, Rs 170 crore for coconut farmer development, Rs 750 crore for start-ups etc.
Earlier, the central government had allowed the state to collect one per cent cess for the rebuilding the flood hit areas in the state. Besides, the ruling party CPM was in the eye of the storm, after the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala allowing entry of women. The eagerness of the state government to implement the ruling hurt sentiments of a large section of people in the state, especially Hindu devotees. Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha seats and opinion polls indicate an edge for the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
While Tamil Nadu had announced its state budget in March last year, many states likes like Karnataka, Orissa, West Bengal etc. are likely to present populist budgets mainly targeting rural India and agriculture in the coming days.