Months before Lok Sabha poll, Lord Ram looms large in Uttar Pradesh’s ₹7.36-lakh-crore budget

Lucknow: Lord Ram was at the centre of Uttar Pradesh’s ₹7.36-lakh-crore budget presented on Monday. Finance Minister Suresh Khanna started his budget speech with a verse from the epic Ramcharitmanas and invoked Lord Ram several times during his 70-minute-long speech. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the budget has been dedicated to Lord Ram and is meant for ‘Lok Mangal’ (public welfare).

The budget, which comes a fortnight after the consecration ceremony at Ayodhya and roughly three months before the Lok Sabha election, focuses on infrastructure, women, education, and developing cultural/religious centres.

The announcements made by Mr. Khanna on Monday included ₹27,086 crore to boost the State’s health infrastructure, ₹2,475 crore for scholarships for students from the backward classes, ₹400 crore for handloom weavers with an aim to generate 40,000 jobs in the handloom and textile sectors, and an increase in the monthly pension for destitute women from ₹500 to ₹1,000.

Mr. Khanna also announced schemes for employment generation, infrastructure development, women empowerment, and the promotion of research and innovation in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

The Finance Minister proposed ₹4,000 crore for the distribution of tablets and smartphones. The Finance Minister said more than 25 lakh tablets and smartphones have already been distributed.

U.P’s ‘Lok Mangal’ budget

Highlights from the ₹7.36-lakh-crore budget, up 6.6% from last year’s budget of ₹6.90 lakh crore:

₹24,863.57 crore worth of new schemes announced
₹1,000 crore for youth to set up micro-industries
₹2,600 crore for Mahakumbh-2025
Big thrust on education

₹1,000 crore for the makeover of primary government schools
₹1,000 crore to distribute free sweaters, shoes, and bags to around 2 crore schoolchildren from Classes 1 to 8
₹255 crore to help enrol over 2 lakh children from disadvantaged groups and economically weaker sections in primary schools
Other highlights

₹1,150 crore for Noida International Airport in Jewar
₹150 crore for expansion of the existing airport in Ayodhya
₹2,057 crore for Ganga Expressway project
₹952 crore for establishing health and wellness centres
₹195 crore for sports infrastructure development
₹460 crore for three new agri-related schemes
Mr. Khanna said a provision of ₹1,000 crore had been made for the construction of flyovers in urban areas to address the issue of traffic congestion in cities and towns. The budget also proposed an increased allocation of ₹2,000 crore to ensure continuous power supply during summers, up 33% from the current fiscal.

“The biggest ever budget of U.P. offers a perfect road map for a balanced development of the State. Lord Ram, who epitomises the well-being of people, is present everywhere, from the start till the conclusion of the budget,” Mr. Adityanath said at a press conference after the budget presentation.

“The budget is dedicated to faith, antyodaya [self-reliance] and economy. I congratulate the Finance Minister for presenting such a budget. The capital expenditure of ₹2.03 lakh crore is a testimony to our government’s commitment towards infrastructure in the State,” he added.

Reacting to the budget, the Opposition launched a blistering attack on the BJP-led government and termed it “an anti-people”.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said it had nothing for “90%” of the State population.

“Whether the budget is of ₹7 lakh crore or ₹8 lakh crore is not important. The bigger question is, what does it have for the backward classes, Scheduled Castes, and minorities? The budget hasn’t addressed the problems faced by the youth, farmers, women and every other section of society. It has failed to provide any road map for U.P.,” said Mr. Yadav.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief, Mayawati, said the budget was meant to serve the BJP’s “electoral interest” rather than serving the broader “public interest”.

“Various announcements, promises, and claims of the government have their own place, but it is also necessary to check whether all the promises made by the government so far have been fulfilled,” Ms. Mayawati, a four-time U.P. CM, wrote on X.