Siddaramaiah’s Budget Sowing Economic Seeds To Reap Electoral Dividends Twin-agenda of the budget—One objective and the other subjective
Going by the content and intent of the first budget presented by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah as the head of the state, (he has to his credit of presenting budget seven times as deputy chief minister in the past), it looks like that this Kuruba strongman has twin-agenda to accomplish—one objective and the other subjective.
The objective agenda is obvious—sow economic seeds to reap electoral dividends. Siddaramaiah expects that his budget would create a feel good factor among the masses so that he can win maximum number of total 28
Lok Sabha seats in the parliamentary elections.
The subjective agenda, however, is indicative of his eagerness to consolidate his social constituency—Backward Classes, SCs/STs and Minorities—should the hawkish mentality of the Congress high command sends him packing for one reason or the other either before or after the parliamentary elections.
In that way, Siddaramaiah has displayed both meticulousness and a long range vision while preparing the budget. It is not without logic and reason that political observers have described Siddaramaiah’s budget as ‘an exercise exclusively for AHINDA’—an acronym for Minorities (Alpasankhyatharu), BCs (Hindulidha Varga) and SCs/STs (Dalits). This charge the Chief Minister has vehemently denied.
“This is an inclusive budget which touches all section and strata of the society. There is no discrimination in any way. The focus and thrust may for the social sectors, which is absolutely necessary. This is the commitment given by the Congress party to the weaker section of the society. But I have also taken sufficient care for growth and development of infrastructure, not only in Bengaluru city but also in other two and three tier cites besides the rural villages,” Siddaramaiah told Uday India.
Siddaramaiah is right in his assertion but what punctures his argument is the fact that exactly after three days of presenting the budget, the Congress high command announced constitution of two bodies—a panel consisting of senior leaders of AICC to oversee the policy initiatives of the government and its implementation, the second being the much-talked about coordination committee, ostensibly to ensure that the relationship between the party and the government remain cordial.
While there could be some semblance of sense in the second body (coordination committee), the first one (a panel consisting of senior AICC leaders) sounds ominous.
“This panel is nothing but an attempt to tie Siddaramaiah’s hands. The high command does not want to give at least a reasonable, meaningful and functional freedom. It looks like that suspicion lurks the high command of the possible exit of Siddaramaiah from the party, after consolidating his position through the budget, if in any case he is removed,” one of the ministerial confidante of the chief minister confided with the Uday India.
Siddaramaiah, however, denies of having any subjective agenda. “I have already said that I will not contest the next elections. The election which I contested in May 2013 is the last one, in my electoral politics. But I will not retire from politics. I will continue to fight for the cause of social justice and secularism. One need not have to be in power to fight for a cause,” he said.
In fact, this statement of Siddaramaiah—that he will not contest elections in future but will remain in active politics—makes his detractors in the Congress party to accuse him of secretly nursing his private agenda.
True to his commitment for the cause of social justice, Siddaramaiah has earmarked funds for various sub-sects among the BCs such as Tigalas, Nekaras (weavers), Meenugara (fishermen), Kumbara (pottery), Uppara, Yadavas, Idigas (traditional toddy toppers) etc, etc.
Along with the Kurubas, (shepherds, the community to which Siddaramaiah belongs), the entire Backward Classes all put together constitute 30 per cent of the total electorate. Added to this are the minorities (11 per cent) and SCs/STs (22 per cent).
With this the entire AHINDA, the social constituency of Siddaramaiah consisting of Minorities, BCs and Dalits makes upto 63 per cent of the total electorate. It is this vital social constituency, Siddaramaiah is trying to consolidate, for himself first and later for the Congress.
This distinct slant towards BCs, SCs/STs and Minorities in the budget made former chief minister H.D.Kumaraswamy to make a caustic and sarcastic remark, “Siddaramaiah has his eyes focused on his future, beyond the Congress. I want my Congress friends to make note of this.” To the utter shock and disbelief of Siddaramaiah, none of the Congress leaders criticised Kumaraswamy and defended the Chief Minister.
By not allocating budget to mutts of any community—the practice started by the then Chief Minister B.S.Yeddyurappa—Siddaramaiah has taken a ‘economically correct stand’ but it could prove ‘politically costly’ as his move is being described as anti-Lingayat and anti-Vokkaliga. But Siddaramaiah is quick to dispel such notions. “I am not against this community or that caste. But if the mutts need funds, let them approach me,” he said.
Following this pro-AHINDA slant in the budget, which is also seen as anti-Lingayat and anti-Vokkaliga, there have been reports of former Chief Minister and Lingayat strongman B.S. Yeddyurappa making friendly overtures to former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, a Vokkaliga-strongman, forgetting their past animosities to counter Siddaramaiah, the Kuruba-strongman. Coming days are going to be crucial for the Karnataka Chief Minister and curious as well as interesting to keen political observers.
By S A Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru