Maharashtra may be groaning under a mountain of debt, but with elections due in three months, it’s the votes that count. Maharashtra Finance Minister Dilip Valse Patil’s maiden Budget for 2009-10 rolls out a slew of measures for farmers, lower income groups, tribals and almost every segment which could return the favour during the elections, even as the Economic Survey projects the state’s debt to shoot up to Rs 1,58,520 crore in 2008-09, as compared to Rs 97,674 crore in 2003-04. Among the measures announced in the Budget are a hefty allocation for the farm debt waiver package, a fresh write-off of loans sanctioned by state-owned welfare corporations, free travel for women representatives of panchayat bodies, a promise to continue the state-sponsored cotton purchase scheme and sops for the sugar industry. There is also a special Rs 11,915-crore package to commemorate Maharashtra’s golden jubilee. An estimated drop in revenue from some major taxes would result in a budgetary deficit of Rs 1,023 crore in the current fiscal. The Finance Minister, however, claimed the government would raise Rs 910 crore through additional resource mobilization, or an increase in taxes. The revenue deficit for 2009-10 is pegged at Rs 7,123.38 crore. The deficit on account of “welfare measures” is sought to be offset by an increase in taxes on electronic goods, motor vehicle tax on four-wheelers, excise duty on Indian Made Foreign Liquor, tobacco products and stamp duty on various instruments. The sops for farmers, minorities, tribals and lower rung government employees bear in mind the fact that these are sections that participate in elections in larger numbers and the Congress-NCP hopes to reap the benefits of this populist Budget. On the revenue generation side, the budget takes refuge in old tricks like raising taxes on commodities which may not severely impact low income groups and the weaker sections. The opposition however criticized the budget 2009-10 stating that it reflects the sorry state of Maharashtra’s finances, as pointed out by the economic survey, and sets modest targets for the current fiscal. All in all, the budget seeks to expand the size of Maharashtra’s annual plan for the current fiscal. The state government had presented an interim Budget in March this year which projected the plan outlay at Rs 26,000 crore. The additional Budget presented expands the outlay by Rs 11,915 crore, which will be channelled into the golden jubilee commemoration. With cameraperson Abhay Prasad, Zeba Warsia for NMTV News.