Sops and promises fly as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana gear up for state assembly polls
Assembly elections in the two states will take place in 2019 but parties have already started their preparations. Parties have promised to implement welfare schemes in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.india Updated: Jan 21, 2018 07:22 IST
The assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana may be 15 months away, but prominent political parties in both the states are already trying to outdo each other in wooing voters.
Even as opposition parties make high-flying promises in a bid to wrest power, the ruling ones are introducing new welfare schemes with little consideration of their impact on the public exchequer.
The YSR Congress, the main opposition in Andhra Pradesh, has come out with a mini-manifesto that promises nine different kinds of sops aimed at various sections of the society. Its president, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, has already hit the road with a 3,000-km-long padayatra to highlight them.
One such promise is that of the YSR Rythu Bharosa, which would entail spending Rs 50,000 on each of the 6.6 million small and marginal farmers in the state. The total estimated cost of this scheme is Rs 33,000 crore.
Another promise made by Reddy is the YSR Aasara scheme, which involves the waiver of loans amounting to Rs 15,000 crore for 89 lakh self-help group women. He also announced hiking the amount of social security pensions being paid to various sections of people — senior and differently abled citizens, weavers and widows — from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000. At present, the government spends Rs 5,000 crore towards paying pensions to around five million people.
Reddy has also vowed to reduce the age limit for payment of old-age pension to SC, ST, OBC and minority community women from 60 to 45 years, if voted to power. Among the other promises made by him are reimbursement of tuition fee for all students below poverty line (expected to cost the state exchequer Rs 3,000 crore), and alcohol prohibition across the state. Andhra Pradesh earns nearly Rs 14,000 crore from liquor sales every year.
The ruling Telugu Desam Party is also trying to woo voters using similar means despite the dire financial straits the state is in. Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, after waiving crop loans worth Rs 24,000 crore in four instalments, has announced a new scheme that would enable the replacement of existing agricultural pump sets with new energy-efficient equipment at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore.
Besides this, Naidu is keen on implementing a promise made before 2014 – paying unemployment allowance ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 per month to jobless youngsters – at a budget of Rs 500 crore. Also on the cards is the provision of Rs 25,000-40,000 in financial assistance to newly wed couples belonging to the backward classes at a cost of Rs 300 crore.
The situation is similar in neighbouring Telangana.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi, headed by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, has already come out with two major schemes — round-the-clock free power supply for the agriculture sector and financial assistance of up to Rs 8,000 per acre every year to each of the 77 lakh farmers in the state. They are likely to cost the state exchequer as much as Rs 12,000 crore annually.
Telangana Congress president Captain N Uttam Kumar Reddy, for his part, has decided against holding back on pre-poll promises. He has declared that crop loans of up to Rs 2 lakh will be waived off in one go if the party is voted to power. The scheme is expected to cost the exchequer Rs 35,000 crore in funds. He has also promised unemployment allowance of Rs 3,000 to each unemployed graduate.
Economists, however, are far from impressed by their tactics.
“There is nothing wrong in political parties promising and implementing welfare schemes, but only if they are able to mobilise resources for the same. If they take loans to implement them, the burden will only fall on the people,” said K Laxminarayana, senior economics professor at the University of Hyderabad.
Former legislator K Nageshwar said it was wrong to assume that people believe all the pre-poll sops promised to them. “They go by the governance of the present government rather than promises made by the opposition,” he added.