Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s “Mission Uttar Pradesh 2012” finds reflection in the Budget with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday announcing a special Rs3,000 crore relief package for debt-ridden weavers.
Leading a team of weavers and party leaders from UP, Gandhi met PM Manmohan Singh last Wednesday to demand a loan waiver for the affected who have been facing economic stress due to rising prices of cotton. According to estimates, weavers currently owe Rs3,400 crore to various financial institutions.
The Congress-led UPA government has decided to provide Rs3,000 crore in phases to about 15,000 handloom cooperative societies through NABARD and the initiative is expected benefit around 3 lakh weavers — majority of them are from Uttar Pradesh.
This is part of Gandhi’s strategy to woo different communities ahead of the 2012 UP polls, considered crucial for the Congress to re-emerge as the single dominant force at the national politics.
The party has started organising weavers’ conventions across the state and also taken up the “genuine cause” of 16 Dalit communities, which, it alleged, have been “consistently ignored” by chief minister Mayawati.
Weavers constitute around 8% of the population of Uttar Pradesh with large pockets of influence in eastern part of the state.
This is not the first time that the Central government has accorded top priority to Gandhi’s Budget wish-list. The 2010-11 budget had a special allocation of Rs1,200 crore for drought mitigation in Bundelkhand, a backward region which was brought to the forefront of national politics by Gandhi.