Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav presented a budget totaling a whopping Rs 2.74 lakh crore in the Vidhan Sabha on Friday. This marks an increase of about 24 per cent over the outlay in the last budget and is the biggest budget in the past eight years. However, in a move, clearly belying his extreme frustration over the Samajwadi Party's washout in the recent Lok Sabha election in UP, Akhilesh has struck down three marquee schemes aimed at the youth.
No provision has been made in the present budget for these schemes — the free tablet and laptop distribution, kanya vidya dhan and unemployment allowance scheme. "This is clearly Akhilesh's way of lashing back at the youth who did not vote for the SP despite getting so many freebies," said senior political analyst Pradeep Kapoor.
However, political watchers also say that Akhilesh's latest budget, his third since he took over in March 2012, reflects a certain maturity and a realisation about the limitations of going overboard with sops like free laptops. "Midway through his chief ministerial tenure, it's a sort of course correction for him," said Dr Ramesh Dixit, Lucknow University professor and keen political observer. "It seems that he now wants to portray the image of a capable administrator who means business."
No wonder then that the 2014-15 budget allocates the highest outlays to key areas, mainly education, health and family welfare and agriculture. In his budget speech, the young CM also stressed the importance of the basic needs of "bijli, sadak, paani" besides developing a strong infrastructure of roads and highways. The effect of his words was aptly reflected in the budget figures.
It came as a shock to even ruling party legislators present in the House, that the free tablet and laptop distribution, kanya vidya dhan and unemployment allowance schemes, which had found pride of place in the party's election manifesto in 2012, had been summarily dropped.
1) Free tablet / laptop distribution
Outlay: 2012-13 – Rs 2,721cr; 2013-14 – Rs 2,700 cr
2) 'Berozgaari bhatta' (unemployment dole)
Outlay: 2012-13 – Rs 1,100 cr; 2013-14 – Rs 1,200 cr (for nine lakh beneficiaries only)
3) Kanya vidya dhan
Outlay: 2012-13 – Rs 446 cr; 2013-14 – Rs 350 cr