Fad­navis’s last bud­get fo­cuses on ir­ri­ga­tion, the lower mid­dle class and na­tional pride

India Today - - STATES - By Ki­ran D. Tare

When Ma­ha­rash­tra fi­nance min­is­ter Sud­hir Mun­gan­ti­war rose to present his fifth bud­get on June 18, the gov­ern­ment was up­beat. The po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the state seems favourable for the rul­ing BJP-Shiv Sena al­liance. If the Lok Sabha elec­tion out­come is any in­di­ca­tion, the al­liance is lead­ing in 232 (BJP 128, Shiv Sena 104) of the 288 assem­bly seg­ments (145 seats would give it a sim­ple ma­jor­ity).

In its fi­nal bud­get for 2019-20, the gov­ern­ment is not taking any risks though. Even with a rev­enue deficit of Rs 20,292 crore, it’s a please all bud­get with farm­ers, wid­ows, traders, the un­em­ployed youth, the phys­i­cally hand­i­capped

com­mu­nity and, of course, the BJP’s core na­tion­al­ist vot­ers, all taken care of.

Wa­ter con­ser­va­tion and ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties have been a big fo­cus with Rs 6,410 crore al­lot­ted for ar­ti­fi­cial cloud seed­ing to in­crease rain­fall (the state is fac­ing a fourth con­sec­u­tive drought year). And while Rs 12,597 crore has been set aside for ir­ri­ga­tion through the piped net­work, another Rs 600 crore has been given to set up new agricultur­e col­leges and agri re­search.

With 600-odd farm­ers com­mit­ting sui­cide in the past three months, the in­sur­ance scheme for the com­mu­nity has widened its scope. Ear­lier, only the farmer was en­ti­tled to in­sur­ance ben­e­fits, now the whole fam­ily has been brought un­der the scheme’s am­bit.

Other big schemes tar­get the lower mid­dle classes. They in­clude in­creased aid for the state’s 3.2 mil­lion un­em­ployed wid­ows (Rs 1,000 a month); Rs 7,197 crore for the con­struc­tion of homes for the di­vyang (phys­i­cally chal­lenged); and a pro­gramme to start 10,000 small in­dus­tries which pri­ori­tises women and SC/ ST en­trepreneur­s.

Chief Min­is­ter Deven­dra Fad­navis is also go­ing all out to mol­lify the Dhangar com­mu­nity, which has been ag­i­tat­ing for Sched­uled Tribe sta­tus (one of his gov­ern­ment’s early prom­ises). Now Fad­navis is hop­ing the Rs 1,000 crore in the bud­get for 23 wel­fare schemes for the com­mu­nity will re­duce some of their ire. The Dhangar vote is crucial in at least 16 assem­bly con­stituen­cies.

The state gov­ern­ment is also go­ing on a me­mo­rial-build­ing spree, with its core Hin­dutva vot­ers in mind. So a Bal Gan­gad­har Ti­lak statue is com­ing up at the new Ma­ha­rash­tra Sadan in Delhi, a grand me­mo­rial to the late Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee is planned in Mum­bai. It is also con­struct­ing memo­ri­als to tribal free­dom fighters in different places keep­ing in mind the 25 assem­bly seats where the com­mu­nity could de­cide the poll out­come.

Mean­while, from the op­po­si­tion, state Congress pres­i­dent Ashok Cha­van crit­i­cised the rev­enue deficit, calling it poor plan­ning by the gov­ern­ment. He ar­gued that the BJP had called the Congress-NCP scam­sters for giv­ing re­vised ad­min­is­tra­tive ap­provals to ir­ri­ga­tion projects. “They have given the same ap­provals to 260 ir­ri­ga­tion projects. Should we call them cor­rupt now?” Cha­van asks.

FULL COVER CM Fad­navis at the Vid­han Bha­van, Mum­bai, Jun. 19

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