Telangana’s finances are in bad shape. But it is the Centre that is to blame. That was the import of K Chandrasekhar Rao’s budget speech in the Telangana assembly on Monday.
“The Central government alone decides the broad fiscal policies in the country. The states have no option but to follow the fiscal policies of the Centre and Telangana State is no exception,” the Telangana chief minister said. It was a broad swipe at the Centre, a throwback of sorts to the months preceding the Lok Sabha elections when KCR was aggressively batting for more federalism and for states to have a greater say in the governance of the country.
While putting forth the point that these are testing times for Telangana and the country, KCR’s speech was deeply political as well, pitching himself as a leader more focused on good governance than the others. The Telangana CM for instance, rubbished the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat health scheme, saying it was far inferior to the State’s ArogyaSri.
“Through Arogya Sri, the government is spending Rs 1336 crore per year benefiting 85.34 lakh families in the state. From the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat scheme, it is possible for the state to provide medical benefits only to the extent of Rs 250 crore per year benefiting only 26 lakh families. Through Arogya Sri, the government is extending services relating to the organ transplants free of cost. This facility is not available under Ayushman Bharat Scheme. Since Arogya Sri Scheme is far more beneficial than Ayushman Bharat in several ways, we have decided not to implement Ayushman Bharat Scheme,” the CM said.
The budget documents also point out that while taxes on commodities yielded Rs 50862 crore to the state in 2016-17, now it has got reduced to Rs 39133 crore. TRS sources say the trickledown effect of demonetisation is being felt now. The criticism is significant because KCR was the first non-NDA chief minister to support demonetisation in November 2016.
The BJP was not amused by KCR blaming the Centre for the fiscal slowdown.
“BJP finds this budget a state narrative of white lies,” said Krishnasagar Rao, BJP spokesperson. “ Telangana experienced an economic slowdown much before the world did, thanks to the misgovernance of the CM. The state government lacks fiscal prudence, discipline and vision. Majority of the payments in this debt-ridden state are going towards payments of high interests on the debts than investment into capital expenditure for wealth creation.”
The TRS says the criticism is not valid and points out that Telangana region was ignored and given step-motherly treatment under the united Andhra Pradesh regime.
“Under the united AP, the average capital expenditure was Rs 5400 crore per annum,whereas in Telangana, more than Rs 33833 crore is being spent per annum on the development works,” KCR said in his budget speech.