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If voted to power, Bhaichung’s party promises rupees 1,500 monthly income

Sikkim is one of the four states where parliamentary and assembly elections are being held simultaneously on April 11. The state has 385,287 voters.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2019 22:41 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sikkim,Bhaichung Bhutia,Sikkim Democractic Front
New Delhi: Former Indian football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia speaks during the launch of his political party 'Hamro Sikkim' during a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

Former India striker Bhaichung Bhutia, the leader of the Hamro Sikkim Party, has upped his political game by promising every family in the tiny Himalayan state annual basic income of Rs 90,000.

Despite the big promise, the football star is unlikely to get a free kick or two in what will be a tough match. He will face chief minister Pawan Chamling, a political giant, whose Sikkim Democratic Front has been in power since 1994.

In the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections, variants of universal basic income, a welfare benefit that guarantees a certain threshold income for everyone, are fast gaining political traction.

The Congress has promised Rs 72,000 a year to the poorest 20% of the population, while the Bharatiya Janata Party has already launched Rs 6,000 in annual transfers to small farmers.

Funding is admittedly a handicap, but Bhutia is not giving away the game. “We are fighting elections and this needs money but we don’t want to contest with funding from a few capitalists,” Bhutia said. “I would like to request people from across India to donate to my new political party for a clean and corruption-free Sikkim.”

Sikkim is one of the four states where parliamentary and assembly elections are being held simultaneously on April 11. The state has 385,287 voters.

The main fight is expected to be between Chamling’s SDF and the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) of former minister PS Golay. The Bharatiya Janata Party has a pre-poll alliance with the SKM.

“He is trying to attract the youth, fighting on a pitch of clean politics. His party, formed in May 31 last year, suffered a major setback with desertions of several leaders last month,” said Ravi Gurung, a political commentator from the state. Among them was RS Subba, a former three-time minister.

The basic income scheme promised by Bhutia’s party has three components: entitlement per person, entitlement per family and progressive increase in the quantum of money.

On a per capita basis, the entitlement is Rs18,000 a year or Rs 1,500 a month. Even children will qualify. For a family of five, the entitlement translates to Rs 90,000 a year. This income support will be progressively increased, as it will be indexed to inflation and cost of living.

Based on the state’s current estimated population of 652,862 people, this handout will likely cost Rs900 crore annually, according to the party’s calculations. This works to 4.04% of the gross state domestic product or GSDP of about Rs 22,247 crore and 12.7% of the state’s Rs 7,051 crore budget (2018-19).

First Published: Mar 27, 2019 22:40 IST