Bengaluru: A week after unveiling a Rs 34,000 crore farm loan waiver in his July 5 budget Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy on Thursday announced an additional farm loan waiver of Rs10,700 crore in respect of loans taken from cooperative banks, but refused to bow to pressure from the coalition partner, Congress to roll back the fuel price hike proposed in his budget.
Existing crop loans upto Rs 1 lakh borrowed by farmers from cooperative banks will be waived, announced the CM while replying to the debate on the budget in the Assembly.
In what could be interpreted as a subtle snub for former CM Siddaramaiah, Mr Kumaraswamy preferred to be non-committal on the demand made by his predecessor for restoring the 7 kg rice allocation under Anna Bhagya which his budget had reduced to 5 kg. Anna Bhagya was Siddaramaiah's pet scheme which he had announced after assuming power in 2013.
Siddaramaiah, who heads the coalition co-ordination committee, had written to the CM, seeking restoration of Anna Bhagya allocation besides withdrawal of the petrol and diesel price hike but Kumaraswamy did not give him a clear commitment. "I have heard criticism on this. Siddaramaiah has also said it should be restored...we will be deciding on it," was all he would say.
Kumaraswamy evaded the issue of rolling back increased taxes on petrol and diesel saying that after GST implementation, the state did not have any option but to increase fuel prices marginally. He had proposed an increase in taxes on petrol and diesel by Rs 1.14 and Rs 1.12 per litre respectively to mobilise resources for the loan waiver.
Describing himself as the ‘most criticised’ finance minister in the history of the state, Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, who handles the finance portfolio, on Thursday, hit back at the Bharatiya Janata Party for its criticism of his maiden budget and also targeted the BJP led NDA government at the Centre for turning a ‘blind eye’ to the state’s needs.
Replying to the debate on the budget in the Assembly, the Chief Minister referred to the BJP’s claims that the Centre had collected Rs 11 lakh crore in revenue and said that despite this, it had not yet paid Rs 900 crore due to the state in connection with the minimum support price (MSP) of crops paid to farmers.
“Besides, when the Centre allowed nationalised banks to raise 25,000 crore in bonds for restructuring banks, we approached Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi and requested him to allow us to use this for farm loan waiver. However, there was no response from him,” Mr Kumaraswamy said.
Taking a dig at the BJP, which had criticised the budget claiming that over 32% of loan waivers had gone to the Vokkaliga community to which he belongs, Mr Kumaraswamy said that around Rs 9,501 crore had gone to Belagavi division and Rs 5,560 crore to Kalaburgi division while Bengaluru division received Rs 7,450 crore and Mysuru, Rs 6760 crore.
“The opposition had also claimed that North Karnataka and the coastal region were neglected in the budget. However, the highest allocations have gone to districts like Belagavi, Bagalkot, Vijayapura and Raichur. I don't understand how these allegations were made,” he said.
Not convinced with the Chief Minister’s arguments on nationalised bank loan waiver, opposition leader Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa wondered which bank manager would give a debt clearance certificate without the loan being completely repaid. While the actual crop loans from nationalised banks are more than Rs 24,000 crore, the state was paying only Rs 6,500 crore now. “This is impossible (loan waiver) and we will not believe it,” he said.
Mr Kumaraswamy shot back saying, “It may be impossible for you, but it is possible for us.” Speaker Ramesh Kumar intervened and said on a lighter note: “I am confident that it is possible for you (Kumaraswamy). After all, you have 50 years of experience (of Mr Deve Gowda) behind you.” When the budget was put to vote, Mr Yeddyurappa said that it was impractical adding that the government was trying to cheat people by making some announcements and staged a walkout along with other opposition members....