NEW DELHI: A strong dose of welfarism and populism may become the BJP’s mantra to beat the looming spectre of a united Opposition in the Lok Sabha elections. While BJP chief Amit Shah has reportedly asked the party-ruled states to significantly enhance the number of beneficiaries under various central welfare schemes, the ruling dispensation is also eyeing the winning mantra of UPA-I—farm loan waiver.
“The first four years of the Modi government were devoted to reforms and consolidation, with thrust on infrastructure development. The last is slotted for a strong dose of welfarism. The opposition unity is essentially an attempt to bring together caste- based political outfits under one umbrella. The BJP can break through the caste consolidation by going whole hog to pass benefits of welfare schemes to a significantly higher number of the people by the time the country goes to the polls,” said a top BJP functionary.
In 2008, the farm loan waiver by the UPA-I had roughly cost the exchequer `63,000 crore, but it gave rich electoral dividends to the Congress next year. It bagged 21 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh alone. “The windfall gain out of the oil price crash in the NDA government’s first three years gives the cushion to bite the populist bullet. Though Modi has reservations on taking recourse to populism to win elections, the emerging challenges are extraordinary in the light of rivals ganging up against the BJP, which necessitates the government to loosen purse strings,” said another senior BJP functionary.
Sources said the BJP is looking at the prospect of waiving farm loans up to `1 lakh each of indebted farmers. “The principal cause of anti-incumbency in BJP’s traditional strongholds in UP, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar — accounting for nearly 300 Lok Sabha seats — is agrarian distress. The farm loan waiver can significantly douse the agrarian angst against the Modi government,” said the BJP functionary.
Shah has asked the party-ruled states to significantly scale up the number of beneficiaries in key welfare schemes under which tangible benefits accrue to the people. “The BJP-ruled states will go extra mile to extend the benefits of schemes like Mudra (loan up to `10 lakh), Ujjawala (LPG connection), Ujala/ Saubhagya (electricity connection and LED bulbs), PMFBY (crop insurance), PMAY (housing), Insurance, and Jan Aushadhi (medicines),” the BJP functionary said.The BJP is principally sensing electoral threat out of the Opposition unity in UP, Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka, which together account for 194 Lok Sabha seats out of the total 545 Parliamentary constituencies in the country.
Lok Sabha seats
■ UP: 80 ■ MP:29 ■ Rajasthan: 25 ■ Gujarat: 26 ■ Maharashtra: 48 ■ Karnataka: 28 ■ Bihar: 40 ■ Punjab: 13 ■ Haryana: 10
Welfare schemes targeted
■ Mudra (loan up to A10 lakh)
■ Ujjwala (LPG connection)
■ Ujala/Saubhagya (electricity connection and LED bulbs)
■ PMFBY (crop insurance)
■ PMAY (housing)
■ Jan Aushadhi (medicines)