A refocus on rural oriented schemes, mainly the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), has begun to shift the spotlight from the BSP's performance in the elections to governance in Uttar Pradesh.
As the NREGS, along with the farmers’ loan waiver, the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana (PM’s village roads plan) and Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Mission are being credited with the Congress's impressive performance in the Lok Sabha elections in the state. A debate is now on in the corridors of power on how these schemes may have affected the poll outcome.
A close scrutiny of the NREGS indicates that the Congress performed remarkably well in all 39 comparatively backward districts where the scheme was implemented in the first two phases -- with the first phase having been implemented in February 2006 and second one in May 2007.
The Congress won 16 of its total of 21 Lok Sabha seats in the districts covered under the NREGS in the first two phases. In at least five other seats also, the Congress secured over 1 lakh votes each.
The NREGS's impact, however, may not be as visible in the remaining districts as these are considered comparatively affluent. In these districts, the scheme was implemented in the third phase on in April 2008. Political observers, however, point out that the NREGS certainly helped generate goodwill for the Congress everywhere as other political parties – the BSP, BJP and SP – disassociated themselves from the scheme and failed to take advantage even in the constituencies of their respective sitting MPs and MLAs.
The Congress, on the other hand, went all out to gain political mileage from the scheme. Senior party leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi, didn't forget to mention the scheme at their public meetings.
Significantly, the NREGS's use of funds has been remarkably higher in some districts where the Congress performed well.
In districts such as Siddharthnagar, Bahraich, Unnao, Kushinagar and Barabanki, a sum of over Rs. 100 crore was used under the NREGS in 2008-2009. In other districts such as Kheri, Pratapgarh, Rae Bareli, Sultanpur, Maharajganj and Jhansi, the amount spent on NREGS was considerably higher.
A meeting of all the divisional commissioners and district magistrates, meanwhile, is being convened on May 25 to set the agenda of governance for the next year. A close monitoring of the performance of various districts in the implementation of these schemes is already being undertaken and officers with dismal performances may be given marching orders.
“Chief Minister Mayawati will take stock of the status of implementation of various schemes and may act tough this time,” said a senior officer of the state government.
According to sources, the focus may remain on the schemes where the Bahujan Samaj Party has not been able to do well in the Lok Sabha elections.
Various other departments are also working out a roadmap, setting out new targets for 2009-2010 and reviewing the achievements made in 2008-2009.
At a Bahujan Sanmaj Party meeting on Wednesday, some party MLAs tried to make a point before Chief Minister Mayawati that the lack of focus on rural schemes adversely affected the BSP's performance. So a roadmap setting out the BSP-led government's priorities for the next three years may also be worked out.
A refocus on the rural-oriented schemes, mainly the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), may be considered. The state government has demanded Rs. 7,500 crore for 2008-2009 against Rs. 3,500 crore spent this year. A target to spend Rs. 2,000 crore under the PM’s village roads plan has been set for 2008-2009 to connect nearly 3,000 villages and hamlets with metalled roads. This is nearly three times higher than the amount spent in 2006-2007.