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Karnataka: Election trends and Assembly performance

April 26th, 2013 No comments

Elections to the 14th Legislative Assembly of Karnataka are scheduled to be held on May 5, 2013. Of the 224 assembly constituencies that will go into polls, 36 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 15 for Scheduled Tribes. Voting will take place in 50,446 polling stations across Karnataka 1. In this blog, we analyse electoral trends between 1989 and 2008 and the performance of the current Karnataka Assembly.

Figure 1: Electoral trends since 1989, source: Election Commission of India, PRS.

In the last elections, held in 2008, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government, winning 110 of the 226 seats in the Assembly. The BJP has steadily increased its seat share since 1989: it won four seats in 1989, 44 in 1999 and 79 in 2004. The Indian National Congress (INC) had a 179 seat majority in 1989 (79% of the assembly) which fell to 34 seats in 1994. The INC subsequently increased their tally from 65 seats in 2004 to 80 seats in 2008. However, the INC continued to have the highest share of votes polled (except in 1994) even as its share of seats decreased.

The 1990s also saw the emergence of the Janata Dal (S) who won the 1994 elections with 115 seats. Janata Dal’s emergence is part of a broader theme of increased participation by regional parties in Karnataka. In 1989, 20 parties contested the elections, seven of which were national parties but in 2008, 30 parties contested, of which only five were national parties.

Performance of the current Assembly

As we approach the end of the term of the current Assembly, a brief look at its work from 2008 to 2013:

  • During its five-year-term, the Assembly sat for a total of 144 days, an average of 31 days each year. In comparison, the Lok Sabha in its current term sat for an average of 68 days per year. Among states, the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days, Haryana for 13 days and Rajasthan for 24 days, each year.

    Figure 2: Days of sitting – Karnataka assembly, source: RTI, PRS.

  •  Members of the Karnataka Assembly recorded an average attendance of 81 per cent for the whole term, broadly in line with the Lok Sabha attendance of 77 per cent. Nearly one in five members registered more than 90 per cent attendance. In comparison, members of the 11th Himachal Pradesh Assembly recorded an attendance of 95 per cent, while the attendance of the 12th Gujarat Assembly stood at 83 per cent.
  • Some of the significant Bills passed by the 14th Karnataka Assembly include the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Bill and the Karnataka Ground Water (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Bill.  In 2012, the Assembly also passed the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation Bill.

Special Category status and centre-state finances

April 12th, 2013 10 comments

“No one can ignore Odisha’s demand. It deserves special category status. It is a genuine right,” said Odisha Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, earlier this month. The Odisha State assembly has passed a resolution requesting special category status and their demands follow Bihar’s recent claim for special category status.

The concept of a special category state was first introduced in 1969 when the 5th Finance Commission sought to provide certain disadvantaged states with preferential treatment in the form of central assistance and tax breaks. Initially three states Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir were granted special status but since then eight more have been included (Arunachal Pradesh,  Himachal Pradesh,  Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand). The rationale for special status is that certain states, because of inherent features, have a low resource base and cannot mobilize resources for development. Some of the features required for special status are: (i) hilly and difficult terrain; (ii) low population density or sizeable share of tribal population; (iii) strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries; (iv) economic and infrastructural backwardness; and (v) non-viable nature of state finances. 1 The decision to grant special category status lies with the National Development Council, composed of the Prime Minster, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and members of the Planning Commission, who guide and review the work of the Planning Commission.

In India, resources can be transferred from the centre to states in many ways (see figure 1). The Finance Commission and the Planning Commission are the two institutions responsible for centre-state financial relations.

Figure 1: Centre-state transfers (Source: Finance Commission, Planning Commission, Budget documents, PRS)

Planning Commission and Special Category

The Planning Commission allocates funds to states through central assistance for state plans. Central assistance can be broadly split into three components: Normal Central Assistance (NCA), Additional Central Assistance (ACA) and Special Central Assistance. NCA, the main assistance for state plans, is split to favour special category states: the 11 states get 30% of the total assistance while the other states share the remaining 70%.  The nature of the assistance also varies for special category states; NCA is split into 90% grants and 10% loans for special category states, while the ratio between grants and loans is 30:70 for other states.

For allocation among special category states, there are no explicit criteria for distribution and funds are allocated on the basis of the state’s plan size and previous plan expenditures. Allocation between non special category states is determined by the Gadgil Mukherjee formula which gives weight to population (60%), per capita income (25%), fiscal performance (7.5%) and special problems (7.5%).  However, as a proportion of total centre-state transfers NCA typically accounts for a relatively small portion (around 5% of total transfers in 2011-12).

Special category states also receive specific assistance addressing features like hill areas, tribal sub-plans and border areas. Beyond additional plan resources, special category states can enjoy concessions in excise and customs duties, income tax rates and corporate tax rates as determined by the government.  The Planning Commission also allocates funds for ACA (assistance for externally aided projects and other specific project) and funds for Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS). State-wise allocation of both ACA and CSS funds are prescribed by the centre.

The Finance Commission

Planning Commission allocations can be important for states, especially for the functioning of certain schemes, but the most significant centre-state transfer is the distribution of central tax revenues among states. The Finance Commission decides the actual distribution and the current Finance Commission have set aside 32.5% of central tax revenue for states. In 2011-12, this amounted to Rs 2.5 lakh crore (57% of total transfers), making it the largest transfer from the centre to states. In addition, the Finance Commission recommends the principles governing non-plan grants and loans to states.  Examples of grants would include funds for disaster relief, maintenance of roads and other state-specific requests.  Among states, the distribution of tax revenue and grants is determined through a formula accounting for population (25%), area (10%), fiscal capacity (47.5%) and fiscal discipline (17.5%).  Unlike the Planning Commission, the Finance Commission does not distinguish between special and non special category states in its allocation.