The frequent visits and grand roadshows of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in poll-bound Karnataka are costing a fortune for the treasury of the Basavaraj Bommai-led Karnataka government.
During Modi’s one-day visit to Karnataka on 27 February, the state government incurred expenditure of nearly ₹14 crore just for the Belagavi event!
Modi visited Belagavi and Shivamogga on 27 February and the ₹14 crore expenditure is only for the Belagavi event, in which he participated for barely five hours.
The expensive affair in Belagavi
The prime minister was on a one-day visit to Karnataka to inaugurate the newly developed Shivamogga airport, redeveloped Belagavi Railway Station, release the 13th instalment under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) to farmers, and lay the foundation stone for the Centre’s Jal Jeevan Mission.
The state government had given approval to the Belagavi District Administration and other authorities concerned for the expenses of around ₹15.3 crores for just five hours of the prime minister’s event in Belagavi.
The state government has so far estimated expenses of around ₹13.75 crore for the five-hour event. More expenses are being calculated by the district administration.
“The expenditure cost might change as final bills are yet to be collected and submitted. The rough estimation of the expenditure for the event is over ₹13.75 crore,” an official from the district administration told South First on condition of anonymity.
The expenses include barricading for around 30 km across the city, security, transportation, stage event, and developing six helipads.
The government spent around ₹3.25 crores just to ferry the beneficiaries for the stage event and a record ₹2 crore for the prime minister’s 10.7-km-roadshow.
₹3.25 crore to ferry people
The state government spent ₹3.25 crore only to ferry the people — including beneficiaries of various Central government schemes — from their respective villages to the prime minister’s event.
To ferry the people, the district administration hired over 1,200 buses from the North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC), one of the state-operated transport corporations.
“On the orders of the state government, the district administration hired over 1,100 buses for one day from the NWKRTC. Even that fell short, so it took services from the Kalyana Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (KKRTC),” said an official who wished to remain unnamed.
He added: “As per rough estimates, the transportation bill alone stands at ₹3.25 crore. The transport expenses are likely to increase. The government had given the approval to spend ₹4.5 crore for transportation.”
Around 1.25 lakh people took part in the prime minister event, claimed sources in the BJP’s Belagavi wing.
It may also be noted that Belagavi’s Department of Pre-University Education postponed the annual examination of three subjects for first-year PUC students due to the cancellation of many bus operations in the rural areas by the NWKRTC.
“We had sent 1,200 buses on the day of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s event. We charge ₹44 per km irrespective of who was hiring our buses. The minimum distance for hire is 350 km, and every additional kilometre is charged at ₹44,” confirmed Bharat Selvan, the managing director of the NWKRTC.
At that rate, each bus for hire cost ₹15,400 at the base rate. Just at the base rate, the Karnataka government incurred costs of ₹1.84 crore for 1,200 buses.
Additional kilometres have been excluded from this calculation.
₹2 crore for roadshow barricades
The state government spent around ₹2 crore on barricading along the route of Modi’s roadshow.
He held a massive roadshow over 10.7 km on the main thoroughfares of Belagavi city on 27 February.
Over 1 lakh people were brought in to witness the roadshow, which began at the APMC Police Grounds and concluded at Malini City.
Belagavi Deputy Commissioner Nitesh Patil told South First: “The Public Works Department (PWD) looked after the expenditure for the prime minister’s 10.7-km roadshow. We did triple and double barricading along the route. We barricaded about 30 km in the city.”
He added: “The expenditure for the barricading and roadshow is anywhere around ₹2 crore. The state government will bear the expenses directly through the PWD, which will then pay the contractors.”
The state government spent ₹52 lakh on barricading the route of the Modi’s roadshow of about 8kms in Hubballi City on 12 January.
He was in the city to inaugurate the National Youth Festival at the railway sports ground.
The government spent another ₹50 lakh on tabloids of Modi’s, other leaders’, and government programmes on the same day as the Belagavi-Shivamogga event.
The government also spent nearly ₹5 lakh to develop six helipads to facilitate the landing of the prime minister’s helicopter.
The other expenditures came from setting up the stage event, refreshments (food and drinking water) for the audience, security, accommodation of the Central and state government officials, and miscellaneous.
Government yet to clear bills worth crores
Even 11 days after the prime minister’s event in Belagavi, the Karnataka government is yet to clear the bills for all the expenses made for the event.
The NWKRTC and contractors, who supplied materials and worked for the event, are reportedly pressuring the district administration to clear the bills at the earliest. However, the government has not released a single paisa to clear the bills.
The state government has also given 4(G) Exemption under the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement (KTPP) Act — which provides for contracts to be awarded without floating tenders — for the Belagavi district administration to give work orders, worth crores of rupees, to the contractors without floating tenders.
Patil told South First: “We were given intimation only three-four days before the prime minister’s event. The government had given us 4(G) exemption to issue work orders and also in principle approval to spend about ₹15 crore for the same event.”
He added: “We are following it up with the higher authorities to get the bills cleared at the earliest. The total expenditure of the event is anywhere around ₹14 crore. This expenditure cost might go up or down as many departments or contractors are yet to submit the final bill.”
Taxpayers’ money, BJP’s speech
Though it was purely a Union government event involving inaugurations by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his speech was a political one, with Modi lashing out at the Congress in Belagavi.
In his over-one-hour-long speech, Modi alleged that the Congress “nursed hatred towards Karnataka”.
“History is proof of how the Congress family (referring to the Nehru-Gandhi family) insulted former Karnataka chief ministers like S Nijalingappa and Veerendra Patil, and Karnataka people know this well,” he said.
He also claimed that the Congress had disrespected its national president and Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition, Mallikarjun Kharge during the AICC plenary session in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur.
“The Opposition calls for my death,” Modi alleged in this political speech at a government event.