In its maiden budget for 2019-2020, the Kamal Nath government did not impose any fresh tax burden on the people but instead took steps to fulfil promises charted in the party manifesto for last year's Madhya Pradesh assembly polls with the apparent intention of pleasing all sections of society.
A proposed three-fold hike in honorarium to priests of registered temples was seen to render a tinge of soft-Hindutva to the budget. The government also proposed to develop regions along the Ram Van Gaman Path, the route believed to have been taken by Hindu deities Ram, Sita and Laxman while in exile.
State Finance Minister Tarun Bhanot also allocated Rs 132 crore for the cause of cattle welfare. Besides proposing that government support for bovines housed in cowsheds be hiked fivefold from Rs 4 to Rs 20 per animal, the budget also sought to encourage private investment for developing such shelters on commercial lines.
Mr Bhanot dismissed claims that the budget had a "soft Hindutva" flavour. "Ye Hindutva ka nahi, yathartha ka budget hai (This budget reflects not Hindutva but reality)," he said.
The over 2.33-lakh crore budget also proposed an "Asthan Scheme", aimed at conserving tribal culture and restoring their places of worship.
However, the maximum proposed allocation of Rs 46,559 crore went to agriculture and farmer welfare - 66% higher than the previous budget. This included Rs 8,000 crore for the farm loan waiver scheme that shaped the Congress' return to power in Madhya Pradesh last December after a gap of 15 years. It was also proposed that fishermen and dairy farmers be given credit cards on the lines of the Kisan Credit Card for getting loans.
The budget did not overlook the minorities either. It proposed a hike in grants to the Madhya Pradesh Waqf Board as well as the Haj Committee, besides earmarking Rs 821 crore for the Other Backward Classes and the Minorities Department.
The budget also spoke of a "Right to Water" draft to ensure safe drinking water for everybody, at a proposed budgetary allocation of Rs 1,000 crore. The government is also working on a Right to Health project for the benefit of every citizen of the state, Mr Bhanot said.
Besides this, a proposal was put forth for branding and marketing special products - including sweets and snacks - for increasing their demand across the globe.
"We've decided against imposing fresh taxes on the common man. Instead, we will raise revenue by revising the tax structure in the mining, excise and transport sectors," the Finance Minister said after presenting the budget with an expected fiscal deficit of 3.34% and a revenue surplus of Rs 732 crore.
The opposition BJP, however, termed Mr Bhanot's budget speech as a "directionless" one replete with poems and catchy phrases. "While the budget proposes funds on various counts, it remains vague on where they are going to source all that money from," said BJP legislator Vishwas Sarang.
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