Sharper welfare plan helps Cong cut across K’taka’s caste barriers | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Sharper welfare plan helps Cong cut across K’taka’s caste barriers

May 14, 2023 01:12 AM IST

The Congress fine-tuned its welfare strategies and broadened the approach to target key constituencies such as farmers, women and young voters

Sops for individual beneficiaries helped the Congress cut across caste barriers and sweep the elections in Karnataka, the only southern state where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power. This electoral success, according to two senior Congress leaders, may now prompt the party to take similar populist measures ahead of elections in five states.

Congress leaders celebrate after the win in Bengaluru on Saturday. (PTI)
Congress leaders celebrate after the win in Bengaluru on Saturday. (PTI)

Years after its NYAY scheme – aimed to cater to the poorest of the poor – failed to lure voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress fine-tuned its welfare strategies and broadened the approach to target key constituencies such as farmers, women and young voters.

The Congress’s sops for the Karnataka polls were 200 units of free power per month under the “Gruha Jyothi” scheme, “Yuva Nidhi” monthly allowances of 3,000 to graduates and 1,500 to diploma holders for two years, 2,000 cash incentive under the “Gruha Lakshmi” scheme for every woman head of a household and free ride for women in public buses, besides 10 kg of free rice for poor.

The party also promised 10 lakh insurance coverage for fishermen, and a 25 subsidy on every litre of diesel for fishermen, to woo Mogaveeras and other fishing communities in the BJP’s traditional stronghold of coastal Karnataka.

The welfare schemes, former Congress Rajya Sabha member BK Hariprasad claimed, “are planned to tackle specific problems faced by households. The ‘Gruha Lakshmi’scheme will help women to meet rising expenses on cooking gas and food items. The ‘Yuva Nidhi’ will help young unemployed people sustain for two years. The free power scheme will be of great help to farmers and all poor families.”

Congress general secretary for communications Jairam Ramesh said: “The BJP had made its election campaign a referendum on the Prime Minister and on the state getting his ‘ashirwaad’ (blessing). The Congress party fought these elections on local issues of livelihood and food security, price rise, farmer distress, electricity supply, joblessness, and corruption.”

The electoral sops also proved to be lucrative amid a raging debate over freebies. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had criticised such schemes, saying people are pained when their taxes are used for free ‘revadi’ (a type of sweet), while defending the government’s poverty alleviation schemes such as PM Awas or Ujjwala Yojana.

Last year, the Election Commission had written to all recognised political parties, seeking their suggestions on a proposal to amend the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and requiring them to furnish details of “financial implications” of promises made in election manifestos.

Congress leaders said sops will remain a key part of their outreach. The party also realised the importance of creating individual beneficiaries – something that the BJP has done through its federal schemes such as Ujjwala, Saubhagya, Nal se Jal and PM Awas schemes, providing basic services for the first time to a large section of the population. In its 10 years of UPA government, the party pushed legislation-based rights and brought bills such as the Right to Education and the Right to Information. Now, the party is focused on creating direct beneficiaries.

For the Himachal Pradesh election, the Congress had proposed the reinstatement of the Old Pension Scheme as government employees constitute 3.37% of the state’s population, according to 2018 data of the state administration.

“Sops will remain a key part of our outreach. In Madhya Pradesh, where elections are due later this year, the Congress state unit has already announced a Nari Samman Yojana if it comes to power,” a senior Congress leader said, seeking anonymity.

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