Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has written to current Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy about his reservations over the new budget proposed by the JD(S)-Congress coalition government.
He has requested Kumaraswamy to roll back the increase in prices of petrol and diesel and retain the provision of seven kilograms of rice distributed as part of "Anna Bhagya" (free rice) scheme.
“Anna Bhagya is not just a government scheme for me, but a noble deed to feed the poor and hungry. This scheme was started after I experienced the hunger of poor people and I have a special relationship with it," reads the letter.
Siddaramaiah added that the Congress government under his leadership spent Rs 11,564 crores on the scheme and that it benefited 3.85 crore people in the state "transcending caste and religion barriers". In the budget presented in February, the Siddaramaiah government had set aside Rs 2,450 crore for the scheme.
He asked Kumaraswamy to reconsider his decision of reducing the amount of rice given to each individual as part of the scheme from 7 kg to 5 kg.
"By reducing the amount of rice given by 2 kgs, we can make savings of Rs 600-700 crores at most. But I believe you can imagine the kind of difficulty this causes for the poor. Already, we are receiving reports of discontent from party workers in various districts," reads the letter.
He further asked the CM to roll back the hike in petrol and diesel prices, pointing out that the Congress is leading a fight against the BJP government at the Centre over the increasing petrol and diesel prices.
"The Congress has taken up the issue of petrol and diesel prices as a priority in its fight against the BJP in the upcoming elections. In this situation, you have decided to hike the price of petrol and diesel," reads the letter.
The letter by Siddaramaiah expressing his unhappiness over the new budget comes as the latest sign of discontent from the former Chief Minister bringing to the fore an underlying problem in the JD(S)-Congress coalition government.
Siddaramaiah had presented a budget in February and is now the head of the Coalition Coordination Committee, set up to ensure the smooth functioning of the coalition government. He was of the opinion that a new budget was not necessary and that Kumaraswamy should only present a 'supplementary budget'.
However, Kumaraswamy insisted on unveiling a new budget earlier this month, in which he announced a farm loan waiver scheme while also increasing power tariffs, excise duty on alcohol and sales tax on petrol and diesel.
The BJP in the state was quick to pounce on the cracks appearing in the coalition government as leader of the opposition BS Yeddyurappa took to Twitter to highlight the difference of opinion within the Congress-JD(S) alliance.