In the run-up to the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh due to be held later this year, the ruling BJP government led by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is leaving no stone unturned to fight the anti-incumbency factor.
The state government is announcing a series of populist schemes and freebies to woo the voters while the state is reeling under debt of around Rs 3.5 lakh crore.
Experts say that the average per capita debt in the state has sharply increased in the past five-six years. If the debt figures are taken into consideration, every citizen in the state has a debt of Rs 41,000. It was estimated at Rs 13,853 by the end of March 2016, compared to Rs 10,896 recorded in FY 2013-14. They claim that the Madhya Pradesh government is "going through a period of severe economic crisis".
The economic condition of Madhya Pradesh can be understood by the fact that in the previous year 2022-2023, the state presented an annual budget of Rs 2.79 lakh crore, while the mounting debt on the government was at Rs 3.31 lakh crore.
Even the Rs 3.14 lakh crore 'self-reliant' annual budget presented in March this year by the Shivraj government for the financial year 2023-2024 could not surpass the total debt of Rs 3.29 lakh crore on the state.
Shashikant Trivedi, a senior journalist who has been covering Madhya Pradesh's economic status for over two decades, said the economic structure had started deteriorating since 2005-2006, but the enormous changes introduced after 2008 made the situation worst.
According to him, "carousel fraud" was one of the main reasons.
"People only understand the GDP growth, which the government highlights but it does not elaborate on the factual data of the state's economic condition. The depth of the economy of the state needs to be transparent to a degree that a layman can understand. For instance, GDP has gone very high, but does it reflect in daily life?"
Congress has held the Shivraj-led BJP government responsible for the "very poor" economic condition of the state.
Senior Congress leader Tarun Bhanot, who was Finance Minister in Kamal Nath's 15-month government, said: "BJP government claims it borrowed loans from banks for the developments of the people, while the situation is quite different. The debt during Digvijaya Singh-led Congress government was at Rs 26,000 crore, now it has reached close to Rs 4 lakh crore, and the financial condition of the people in the state continues to decline."
The former minister claimed the situation has worsened to such an extent that students were not given dues of their scholarship for the last two years.
"During the 15-month government, Kamal Nath has made several reforms and multiple revenue resources were created without putting any extra burden on citizens. The Shivraj government has pushed the state 10-15 years back (in terms of economic development)," Bhanot added.
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