In ‘unsaid’ Bihar of PM speech, parties trade fireUpdated: Jun 30, 2020 20:16 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement Tuesday to extend the Pradhanmantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) till November this year drew predictably mixed reactions from political parties in Bihar, where Assembly polls are, incidentally, due in October-November.
Under the scheme, over 80 crore people in the country will get five kgs of wheat or of rice every month.
Though the prime minister didn’t mention Bihar in his televised speech announcing extension of the scheme, he spoke twice about Chhath, considered the holiest festival in the state. During the festival that usually falls in October-November, most people from Bihar residing outside come home and stay for a few days.
Besides, nearly 25 lakh migrant workers from Bihar, who were working in other states, have returned home since the countrywide lockdown was imposed on March 24 to check the spread of coronavirus. Though many have started going out again in search of jobs, a large section is expected to stay back, given the uncertain environment they find themselves in.
Given their voting potential, political parties in the state have already started wooing them, raising the issue of hardships these they faced while returning home and their employment prospects.
While the ruling NDA in the state hailed the PM's announcement, the Opposition alleged it was electoral gimmick.
“PM Modi is seriously concerned for the poor of the country. It is a welcome step. The Congress and RJD should not view it through the prism of elections,” said BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand.
“It’s a big announcement. This should not be linked to elections. It will benefit all over country and not only Bihar. Elections take place every five years,” said JD(U) spokesperson Rajeev Ranjan.
RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, the Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly, said the ruling alliance was more concerned about elections. “There is no concern for Corona. Cases are increasing. They are only eyeing elections,” he said.
Earlier, on June 20, Modi had launched Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan (GKRA), which is to run for 125 days across 116 districts in six states to help migrant workers get jobs in their home states. Bihar is the biggest beneficiary of the state as 32 out of its 38 districts have been selected based on the criterion that over 25,000 migrant workers should have returned back from other states.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had lauded the initiative and said it would compliment the state government’s own initiatives to ensure that no one requiring immediate work was left without work.
Politics apart, observers say the extension of scheme for free foodgrains cannot be a substitute for employment for migrants who have returned, even though it may help woo them for votes. “There is another side of the picture too. The rush to make ration cards makes it clear these many people were deprived of it and exposes the system. The migrants need money and employment. Though foodgrains will help poor, it is yet to be seen how much of it translates into votes,” said political analyst D M Diwakar of A N Sinha Institute for Social Studies.