Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy DK Shivakumar, along with the eight other ministers who were sworn-in on Saturday, 20 May, made sure that they held their first Cabinet meeting the same day — where they gave in-principle approval for the Congress’ five pre-poll guarantees.
“This mandate is for a pro-people government, this mandate is for pro-poor people government. It is a rejection of the politics of divisiveness and a rejection of the corrupt. I would like to reassure the people of Karnataka that the Congress government which has been sworn in today will stand by its commitment to implement the promises made to them,” Sonia Gandhi said in a video message to Kannadigas, hours after the Cabinet approved the primary poll promises of her party.
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Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that the newly sworn-in Karnataka Cabinet, in its maiden meeting, accorded “in-principle” approval to implement the Congress party’s five guarantees — and initial estimates indicate that it would cost the exchequer ₹50,000 crore annually.
“It is agreed upon. We will not go back (on the promises),” Siddaramaiah said, adding that the assurances would be fulfilled notwithstanding the financial implications, if any.
Siddaramaiah said the initial estimation of the government is that the implementation of the poll promises would cost the exchequer ₹50,000 crore per year. The assurances promised before the elections would “most likely” be implemented after the next Cabinet meeting, he said addressing a press conference here.
The party’s five poll guarantees are 200 units of free power to all households (Gruha Jyoti), ₹2,000 monthly assistance to the woman head of every family (Gruha Lakshmi), 10 kg of rice free to every member of a BPL household (Anna Bhagya), ₹3,000 every month for unemployed graduate youth, ₹1,500 for unemployed diploma holders (both in the age group of 18-25) for two years (YuvaNidhi), and free travel for women in public transport buses (Shakti).
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‘Not an impossible task’
Noting that the state budget of Karnataka is ₹3.1 lakh crore, Siddaramaiah said: “I don’t think it’s impossible for our government to raise ₹50,000 crore a year (for the five guarantees).”
“I am confident that without entrapping the state in debt, and without pushing the state into financial bankruptcy, we will implement all the guarantee schemes,” he said.
“When we are paying ₹56,000 crore (annually) as interest on our loans, can’t we spend ₹50,000 crore for our people,” he asked.
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“The 15th Finance Commission had recommended ₹5,495 crore to the state, but our previous (BJP) government did not move a straw to demand that from the Centre,” Siddaramaiah pointed out.
And, despite that, the previous government had conveniently allowed ₹4 lakh crore to be looted from Karnataka by way of GST and other taxations,” the chief minister added.
“We have given approval in principle. I will come out with details in the next Cabinet meeting. I have instructed that orders are issued. We will get details, discuss financial implications, and then we will do it for sure.
“Whatever the financial implications may be, we will fulfil these five guarantee schemes,” Siddaramaiah asserted.