The Congress in Karnataka has already started going slow on its poll promises, which are said to be the reason behind the record victory for the party, by adding stiff riders to reduce the anticipated burden on the state exchequer. As such, only the poor and lower middle class, and not the entire population of the state as suggested, would now get many of the benefits.
Poll promises and its after effects
Villagers are already refusing to accept electricity bills. Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (Bescom) meter readers are being chased away in some villages because of the major poll promise of the Congress of giving 200 units of free electricity to all households a month if it came to power (Gruha Jyoti). This comes after KPCC chief DK Shivakumar’s pre-poll call to voters to not pay power bills from June 1.
A video of people arguing with a meter reader and forcing him out went viral on social media on Monday. The villagers were seen asking the meter reader, “The Congress has won a majority and will soon implement all guarantees, including free electricity. Why are you coming to the village and handing us the bills?”
The Gruha Jyothi scheme has come under the scanner for financial implications. The Congress claimed the scheme will cost ₹7,000 crore a year, but experts say that there are 1.9 crore households in the state and if 200 units are given free per month, the consumption will be 3,845 million units a month. This translates to ₹44,404 crore. Even if half the households were to get free power, the amount required would be around ₹20,000 crore a year.
The scheme is now likely to be extended only to those who use 200 or less units of power in a month. “The offer will not be eligible even for those who use one unit more (201 units),” said a senior Congress leader, echoing the Delhi model of the Aam Aadmi Party government there.
Free ride will be restricted to daily commuters only
Another poll promise being tweaked is about women being able to travel free of charge on government buses anywhere in Karnataka. The free ride will be restricted to the daily commuter route on an ordinary bus and will not apply to rides on semi-deluxe or deluxe buses. For instance, it will be provided between home and office and not across the city or state.
“If we allow free travel for all women, the already-bleeding transport corporations may face more losses,” a senior transport officer was quoted in the media as saying.
The 10kg free rice for BPL families (Anna Bhagya), ₹3,000 every month for graduate youth and ₹1,500 for diploma-holders (both in the age group of 18-25) for two years (YuvaNidhi) will also come with several riders.
The freebies will entail a cost of about ₹40,000 crore annually, which is 15% of the state budget, a senior Congress leader was quoted in the media as saying. Hence, the new government cannot afford to grant freebies in its first year of office.
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