The JD(S)-Congress coalition is set to face its first real test on July 5 with Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy determined to present a budget reflecting his priorities. The much-promised announcement on farm loan waiver may bring cheer to farmers and JD(S), but not for many within Congress.
Though the Congress high command has assured full support for Kumaraswamy to implement his welfare programmes and provide a stable government, the discordant notes emanating from former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the group loyal to him could prove ominous.
While Siddaramaiah has conveyed his displeasure over allowing Kumaraswamy to present a full-fledged budget and going ahead with his plans for farm loan waiver without getting it whetted by the Coordiantion Committee, those who missed the ministerial berth and are feeling neglected in the party, are getting more vocal, causing discomfiture to the government.
The two video clips that have surfaced from the Nature Cure Centre where Siddaramaiah is undergoing a rejuvenation therapy, are being seen as a clear move to convey their displeasure to the party high command.
Meanwhile, Kumaraswamy is well on course to incorporating the farm loan waiver in his budget. According to sources, the modalities are being worked out to implement the promise. “While the overall estimate of the financial burden is around Rs 53,000 crore, the waiver being worked out is estimated to cost Rs 30,000 crore. It will cover just crop loans availed by a farmer and not loans taken for purchase of farm equipment,” sources in state secretariat told TNIE.
Sources also rejected reports about restricting the loan waiver to just small and marginal farmers. “There will be no cap on the extent of land holdings for availing the benefit,” sources said.
While the delivering on a big ticket programme is cause for celebration, members in Congress have reason to sulk. In fact, it is making them jittery. “Kumaraswamy and JD(S) will walk away with all the credit for fulfilling the promise and reap the political dividend…We will be reduced to mere spectators,” argues a two-time Congress MLA.
The challenge and compulsions of mobilising the huge resources for the programme will also see Fiscal Discipline, the pride and hallmark of Siddaramaiah’s 13 budgets, going for a toss. All these budgets had ensured healthy debt-GDP ratio, well below the 25% norm and were also revenue surplus. With Kumaraswamy set to effect cuts to many welfare programmes launched by the previous Siddaramaiah government, Siddaramaiah loyalists see a double blow for Congress.
The coalition government could face more serious trouble after the budget presentation as disgruntled members are turning more vocal. “Only Siddaramaiah can face up to BJP leaders like Modi and Amit Shah. The coalition government will be in trouble if Siddaramaiah is neglected. This government will have no future if Congress leaders and workers are humiliated to save this government. Kumaraswamy should not have been allowed to present a full-fledged budget,” said Congress MLA from Chikkaballapur, Dr Sudhakar