In an election year, it was thought that the BJP would announce some sops for Telangana in the Union Budget 2023-24 to woo the voters in a state where its leaders see a realistic chance for the party to capture power, but the Budget came as a disappointment for the southern state.
BJP leaders were hoping that a few big announcements for Telangana in the Budget would provide them a chance to cash in on the run-up to the elections.
Political observers say this would have also provided the BJP an opportunity to launch a counter-attack on the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), which has been targeting the Narendra Modi-led Central government for doing “nothing” for Telangana in the past eight years.
Since Prime Minister Modi and other top BJP leaders, at every public meeting, are calling for a double-engine government to fast-track development in Telangana, some announcements in the Budget would have helped the party build a strong narrative.
By not making any key announcement in the Budget, the BJP seems to have given BRS more ammunition to attack it for neglecting Telangana, and thus score some brownie points in the election year.
And BRS was quick to grab the opportunity. ‘Telangana gets Zero in Union Budget’, read the hoardings put up by the party at public places.
The party leaders also launched a scathing attack on the Modi government for once again ignoring Telangana in the Budget.
Except for regular allocations under revenue expenditure to the Central institutions and autonomous bodies in the state, the Centre did not consider any of the demands put forth by Telangana.
The state’s share in Central taxes may see a slight increase from the present Rs 18,000 crore to Rs 21,000 crore. Except for this, it doesn’t have much to cheer about.
“The Union Budget is a big disappointment to progressive states and farmers of the nation. It has done gross injustice to Telangana once again,” said state Finance Minister T. Harish Rao.
None of the promises made under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, including railway coach factory or steel factory, found no place in the Budget even after nine years. Nominal funds were allotted for the tribal university which remained a non-starter, he said.
“Despite our repeated requests, none of the irrigation projects of Telangana were accorded with the national project status. Similarly, no GST subsidies or incentives were given to the weavers. We had repeatedly requested for incentives to young states like Telangana, but there has been no response,” Rao said.
He also pointed out that no new special economic zones or industrial corridors were allotted to Telangana, and no major funds were announced for the development of those sanctioned by the previous governments.
Highlighting the Centre’s ‘bias’ towards Telangana, BRS leaders said the Centre announced a special package of Rs 5,300 crore for Karnataka, a state where BJP is in power and which is going to the polls in the next few months.
“The Centre allocated a huge amount for Karnataka’s Upper Bhadra Irrigation Project and boons were announced to ‘gift city’ of Gujarat,” said Harish Rao.
The state government had sought funds for Hyderabad Pharma City, Kakatiya Textile Park, NIMZ, Defence Corridor and several developmental works proposed in the urban local bodies.
The BRS leaders also pointed out that Telangana was not given a single nursing college out of 157 sanctioned in the Budget. Earlier, the Centre had not approved a single medical college for the state.
Telangana also found fault with the Union Budget announcement that states would be allowed a fiscal deficit of 3.5 per cent of GSDP of which 0.5 per cent would be tied to power sector reforms.
The Telangana government has been opposing power sector reforms as this will entail installation of meters to electricity connections for agriculture. The state will not get additional borrowing of 0.5 per cent.
The loss of borrowings per year for Telangana on this count will be around Rs 6,000 crore.
Political analysts said BRS will look to politically capitalise on this issue. The BRS government, which has been supplying 24×7 free electricity to farmers and claims to be the only state government in the country to do so, will tell farmers how it is sacrificing funds but refusing to implement power reforms so that they are not burdened.
With Telangana getting a ‘raw deal’ once again, the BRS leaders are likely to step up the attacks on BJP and assure people that despite lack of any support from the Centre, the state government will continue to implement all the welfare schemes with the state’s own resources.
While no major proposal for Telangana in an election year has disappointed state BJP leaders, they tried to lay the blame at the doorsteps of BRS.
State BJP chief Bandi Sanjay said that the state government should have sent the proposals for allocation early.
“The Chief Minister has no interest in the welfare of the people. Why did the state government fail to send the proposals early,” he asked.