Congress rains goodies in Karnataka after Siddaramaiah sworn-in (Roundup)

Bangalore, May 13 (IANS) A victorious Congress Monday rained goodies in Karnataka within hours after its state’s legislative party leader Siddaramaiah took oath as the 28th Chief Minister in front of massive crowds at a public venue here.

Returning to power in the southern state after nine years, the Congress sought to reward the electorate, especially the weaker sections with cheaper rice, higher milk subsidy, higher housing credit and loan waivers at a burden of Rs.4,410 crore to the state’s exchequer.

“About 10.4 million people comprising the poor, farmers, SCs, STs, BCs and minorities will benefit from some of the promises we made in our election manifesto and implementing as our commitment,” Siddaramaiah told reporters after meeting top officials at the secretariat in Vidhana Soudha.

Asserting that all the promises, polices and programmes made in the party manifesto would be implemented during the next four years, he announced that 30kg of rice would be sold at Re.1 per kg to BPL (below poverty line) families across the state from June 1.

“The subsidised rice scheme will benefit 9.82 million BPL families in rural and urban areas and will cost the exchequer Rs.460 crore per annum,” Siddaramaiah said at his maiden press conference as chief minister.

Similarly, a subsidy of Rs.4 per litre of milk will be given to dairy producers, which will cost the state Rs.496 crore per annum.

“The milk subsidy is being doubled to Rs.4 per litre from Rs.2 with effect from today (Monday) and will benefit about 7.5 lakh producers or farmers across the state,” Siddaramaiah said.

Hinting that some more promises would be addressed in the budget he would present in June, the 64-year-old chief minister announced waiver of loans with interest to the tune of Rs.1,225 crore that would benefit 1.03 million people belonging to the STs (Scheduled Castes), STs (Scheduled Tribes), OBCs, (Other Backward Classes) and minorities across the state.

Of the total beneficiaries, 1.87 lakh belong to SCs, 4,078 to STs, 4.98 lakh to OBCs and 3 lakh to minorities. The outstanding loans of SCs are Rs.186 crore, STs Rs.163 crore, OBCs Rs.514 crore and minorities Rs.362 crore.

The beneficiaries are given loans by the central and state governments under the Ambedkar Development Corporation, ST Deveopment Corporation, Devaraj Urs Development Corporation and Minorities Development Corporation.

Siddaramaiah also announced Rs.45,000 increase in housing loans to Rs.120,000 from Rs.75,000 per unit under central and state schemes that will benefit 2.7 lakh poor families in rural and urban areas and cost the exchequer Rs.1,960 crore per annum.

“As promised in the manifesto, Rs.268-crore outstanding electricity bills under the subsidised Bhagyajyoti scheme will be written off to benefit two million poor people. The power utility (Bescom) will be ordered to restore connection to the affected families immediately,” Siddaramaiah said.

Earlier in the day, Governor H.R. Bhardwaj administered the oath of office to Siddaramaiah at a grand swearing-in ceremony under a cloudy sky in salubrious climate at the Kanteerva stadium in the presence of over 50,000 people from across the state.

The historic occasion was marked by jubilant scenes as frenzied crowds went into raptures, cheering while hundreds of fans from Siddaramaiah’s assembly constituency (Varuna) and home district (Mysore) staged folk dances to the beat of native music, including drums.

Siddaramaiah took oath in the name of truth and the Constitution after Bhardwaj prompted him in Kannada ‘Nanu’ (I) twice at the scheduled time (11.40 a.m.) even as the stadium reverberated in thunderous applause.

Among the galaxy of leaders present on the occasion were central ministers from the state Mallikarjun Kharge, M. Veerappa Moily, K. Muniyappa and Rehman Khan and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Congress general secretary and in-charge of party’s affairs in the state Madhusudhan Mistry and former external affairs minister and ex-state chief minister S.M. Krishna were among the other prominent leaders on the dais.

The absence of noted representatives or newly elected lawmakers from the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) was, however, conspicuous at the event.

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