Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a grant of ₹5,300 crore for the Upper Bhadra Irrigation Project in Karnataka in the Union Budget 2023. This comes as the state is expected to go to polls in May 2023. 

Sitharaman in her fifth budget speech said, “In the drought-prone central region of Karnataka, central assistance of ₹5,300 crores will be given to Upper Bhadra Project to provide sustainable micro irrigation and filling up of surface tanks for drinking water.” Karnataka was the only state mentioned in the budget.

The project is likely to irrigate around 2.25 lakh hectares spread across drought-prone central districts comprising of Chikmagalur, Chitradurga, Davanagere, and Tumkar. Karntaka had given administrative approval for the implementation of the ₹21,473 crore project. 

Post the announcement, Karntaka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai in a tweet said, “On behalf of the entire state of Karntaka I thank the finance minister and prime minister for announcing a grant of ₹5,300 crore for the state’s flagship project.” 

However, the opposition is seeing the announcement as an opportunist move by the ruling party. Tanveer Ahmed, Janata Dal (Secular) spokesperson said, “The Upper Bhadra Project is a good project but its too little too late. Karnataka has been seeing agrarian crises for quite sometime and the state has been asking the centre to solve the Kaveri and Mahadayi issues. But now the grant for irrigation project is given only now, keeping the elections in mind. However its a welcome move.”

Political analyst, Sandeep Shastri opines, “The long standing grant demand for the upper bhadra project is considered now because it is a way by which the BJP central leadership is trying to reach out to the people of Northern Karnataka, an important support base for the party. This was done to retain the base in the region that the party has consistently performed well in.” 

However, history has shown that it is important for parties to perform well in the Old Mysuru region comprising the state capital Bengaluru, to get a clear majority. Hence, even while the irrigation project was long overdue there was also a need to cater to some demands in the Old Mysuru region, he added.