BENGALURU: If there were any doubts about the regional imbalance in the JD(S)-Congress government, Thursday’s budget announcements by H D Kumaraswamy confirmed that. Kumaraswamy’s first budget doled out schemes after schemes for South Karnataka districts, including Bengaluru, but left North and Coastal Karnataka largely out. In his attempt to defend what experts consider a partisan budget, Kumaraswamy said all schemes announced by former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in his last budget in February this year would be taken forward -- an argument that neither the opposition nor people of North Karnataka are willing to buy.
Ramanagara district, a JD(S) stronghold which elected Kumaraswamy to the assembly from two seats, gets a new medical college, a 300-bed super specialty hospital at a cost of Rs 40 crore, and a film university for which the government will provide a capital of Rs 30 crore besides a few other schemes. Hassan gets a 450-bed hospital, Rs 50 crore for a mega dairy, Rs 70 crore for a drinking water plan, Rs 36 crore for roads, bridges and parks and some other allocations.
Mandya, which was swept by the JD(S) in the assembly election, gets Rs 30 crore to upgrade Mandya Medical Sciences Institute, Rs 42 crore for drinking water projects in Srirangapatna, Rs 30 crore to fill water in tanks and Rs 50 crore for all-round development. Mysuru, Chamarajnagar, Chikballapur, Bengaluru Rural and Urban and Tukamuru district too figure prominently in Kumaraswamy’s scheme of things.
Kumaraswamy’s cabinet has already come under massive fire for being South Karnataka-dominated and Vokkaliga-heavy (10 out of 27 ministers are from the community). “People of my region have given me 37 seats, thanks to which I am in a position where I can take tough decisions like the farm loan waiver. I have barely given projects worth Rs 200-300 crores to the region and there is hullaballoo over it,” the Chief Minister said in response to the BJP calling the budget a “Haasan budget”, referring to the district which the Gowda family hails from.
As much as Kumaraswamy would like to claim that the previous government’s promises would hold good, people from North Karnataka as well as coastal districts are left disappointed. So much so that legislators from the three coastal districts gheraoed the Chief Minister inside the assembly accusing him of being unfair.
“It is disappointing to see Kumaraswamy, someone who is popular among the masses in North Karnataka, give such a lopsided budget,” said Prof Harish Ramaswamy, psephologist and professor of political science at Karnatak University, Dharwad. The budget, he believes, displays step-motherly treatment to North Karnataka.
Kumaraswamy has proposed Rs 50 crore to eradicate drinking water problems of Mysuru city and 92 neighbouring villages but has chosen to wait until orders in Mahadayi dispute case to announce any such schemes in the affected region. The imbalance, analysts believe is evident. “This will definitely lead to a fight of dominance by Lingayats and Vokkaligas. More so, it will add strength to the demand for a separate state from North Karnataka,” Prof Ramaswamy warned.