Siddaramiah announced that Karnataka will set up 198 Namma canteens in Bengaluru
In his last full budget before coming up for re-election, Karnataka's Congress government found inspiration in the populist schemes of Arvind Kejriwal, J Jayalalithaa and Akhilesh Yadav.
In imitation of the 'Amma canteens' of J Jayalalithaa in next-door Tamil Nadu, Mr Siddaramiah announced that Karnataka will set up 198 Namma canteens in Bengaluru, which will dish out breakfast for Rs 5, lunch and dinner for Rs 10. This will cost the government Rs 100 crore. People in other districts will get subsidised food through mobile canteens run by Self-Help Groups.
To appeal to the urban poor, 10,000 litres of water will be provided free to people in slums - a scheme that Mr Kejriwal AAP thinks worked for it in the assembly elections in Delhi.
The Karnataka government will also provide free laptops to students joining courses like Medical, Engineering, Polytechnic and First Grade Colleges in 2017-18 - a tweak in the former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's pre-2012 poll promise in Uttar Pradesh.
Mr Siddaramiah also didn't forget his pet project, the Annabhagya scheme, under which food grain allotment was increased from 5kg to 7kg per person.
The government reached out to the urban middle class as well. Apart from allotting 7,400 cr for Bengaluru city development, the government declared an intent to cap the maximum entry fee in multiplexes and theaters at Rs 200.
The VAT on wine, beer and hard liquor was removed, but there might not be much to rejoice as the additional excise duty has been increased. "We have tried to focus on various sectors like food, poor people, women welfare and power," said Chief Minister Siddaramiah after presenting the budget.
The Opposition called the budget "populist" and "visionless" and accused the Chief Minister of sticking to fiscal discipline. "The Chief Minister has borrowed 37,000 crore and has not adhered to fiscal discipline," said leader of opposition Jagadish Shettar.
While some citizens appreciated the freebies, others called it a gimmick. "I think it's a good idea for people who are underprivileged," said Melow M.
The locals were more critical of the government for not planning enough for polluted lakes. "They have just been given 42 crore for the city's lakes, which is not enough. Varthur and Bellandur lakes themselves are equal to a ward," said environmentalist Anand Thirth.
The government didn't go for the much anticipated farm loan waiver, but political analysts believe it could be announced close to the election. The Chief Minister has put the ball in the Centre's court, suggesting that the state would be agreeable to a loan waiver if the Centre was ready to bear half the burden.