Thiruvananthapuram: Missing out on a 'mass appeal' package is not something finance minister T M Thomas Isaac is known for. He is showman nonpareil.
Yet, in his post-flood budget, Isaac had virtually forgotten Idukki, the state's most calamity-prone region.
Idukki is mentioned in his budget speech, but only as an afterthought.
In a single line thrown in at the end of the paragraph on Wayanad Package.
"Similar projects will be formulated under Rebuild Kerala in other hilly areas including Idukki," he said. As if help for Idukki can wait.
After he found that his own cabinet colleague and Idukki strongman M M Mani had felt insulted, the minister made amends.
And how? Six days after he presented Budget 2019-20, the finance minister announced a three-year Rs-5000-crore Idukki package.
This is the first time a mammoth package is declared long after the budget speech had been read, closed, and nearly forgotten.
If you thought that such a costly package would upset Isaac's Budget calculations, you are mistaken.
An extra allocation of not a single rupee has been made to conjure up the Idukki package. Trust Isaac to make the best of what he has.
Like a statistician who picks up scattered data to reveal a surprising trend, Isaac collected Idukki-related schemes under various heads and projects and grouped them all together under the Idukki package.
Rs 1,500 crore is the allocation for the Idukki package during the 2019-20 fiscal. Of this, Rs 550 crore is from the state plan, Rs 100 crore from centrally sponsored schemes, Rs 350 crore from various local body projects, and Rs 250 crore from the Rebuild Kerala Initiative. This money would have anyway gone to Idukki with or without the package. Isaac just packaged it like he was selling tea.
In fact, he spoke of branding Idukki tea. But, unlike in the case of Wayanad coffee, he did not suggest a name. In his budget speech he had spoken of selling Wayanad coffee powder under the brand name 'Malabar'.
How about 'Western Ghats Chai' for Idukki tea. We leave it to the discretion of brand guru Thomas Isaac.