Now that the Congress looks set to form the next government in Karnataka
, will it implement the grandiose promises in its manifesto - especially round-the-clock, three-phase electricity supply to irrigation pump sets?
Karnataka's power sector experts say the government will not be able to do so even if it wants to for two major reasons.
One: it will wreck Karnataka's healthy finances forcing it to impose fresh taxes on consumer goods, new vehicles and property transactions. Two: the transmission and distribution infrastructure
cannot take the load even if power is available.
There are about 18 million irrigation pump sets in Karnataka, and farmers are getting power supply for at least six hours a day. This is supplied free. This is estimated to cost the Karnataka government Rs 5,500 crore in 2013/14.
It may be possible for the Congress to implement its poll promise in four years if all the fresh capacities planned - about 4000 MW - come up on schedule by 2017, and the Southern grid gets seamlessly integrated with the national grid.
However, there will be a cost. If the State chooses to provide free power to farmers, it will increase its subsidy bill four fold to about Rs 20,000 crore.
The Congress has made another poll promise - and this one has been hailed even by power sector experts.
The party has offered to provide 100 per cent subsidy to drip irrigation and 75 per cent subsidy to irrigation pump sets powered by solar energy. The power sector managers say if farmers make these schemes a success, it will ease the stress on the power sector and, 24-hour three-phase supply to the farm sector may be possible. It will also make more power available to the manufacturing sector.
Karnataka has the highest peak shortage of 1727 MW (17.6 per cent) followed by Andhra Pradesh at 2301 MW (16.5 per cent) and Tamil Nadu at 1833 MW (14.8 per cent, according to Central Electricity Authority (CEA) data for March.