Bengaluru: Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy on Monday lashed out at his predecessor, Siddaramaiah, over the presentation of two full-fledged budgets in the same year. Making no direct references to his predecessor, Kumaraswamy, who is eager to roll out his pre-poll election promise of a farm loan waiver, said that he did not become chief minister by either “mercy" or by “begging" for the post but was being impeded from presenting a full budget.
The war of words is one of the first signs of discord between the newly-formed coalition partners, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S), in the state. The differences between the two of the tallest leaders in the fragile coalition come about a month after the two parties came together to rule Karnataka and more importantly keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who had also assured a farm loan waiver, out of power in the state.
The differences have cropped up despite the establishment of a coordination and monitoring committee to ensure smooth functioning of the coalition. The committee is also drafting a common minimum programme (CMP) to implement assurances given in the election manifestos of the two parties.
“How long I stay as chief minister is not important. I am more concerned about how much I can do for the people while I am here," Kumaraswamy said on Monday, after meeting with senior officials from various banks in the state to discuss the farm loan waiver.
The Congress has backed the JD(S) for a full five-year term and announced a pre-poll alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. However, fears that the Congress would pull out of the coalition in the state after the general elections has put Kumaraswamy on the edge. The chief minister also warned senior officials from the finance department who he alleged had asked banks not to change their policy nor support the proposed loan waivers as there was no guarantee of how long this government would last.
Kumaraswamy is banking on the ‘unconditional support’ extended to his party by the Congress before the two decided to join hands on 15 May.
Siddaramaiah, who presented a full-fledged budget in February, is of the opinion that his successor should implement the already presented budget and introduce new schemes, if any, through a supplementary budget as the Congress has supported the JD(S) to form the government.
“If he wants to announce new schemes, he can do it through a supplementary budget," Siddaramaiah had said recently in Mangaluru.
Kumaraswamy on Monday said that though there was a budget presented by his predecessor in February, there were at least 100 new legislators whose aspirations need to be reflected in the new administration. The government is scheduled to present a budget on 5 July but it remains to be seen if all issues between the coalition partners will be resolved by then.
“These issues should not be discussed in public forums. They have a coordination committee and all these differences could have been ironed out there. This public spat raises questions about the credibility of this government itself," Jagadish Shettar, former chief minister and senior BJP leader said. He added that the scope of a supplementary budget is limited. Shettar said that farmers continue to wait for an announcement of a waiver and are growing impatient with each passing day.