Ahead Of 2019 Polls, Naveen Begins showering Freebies To Less Well-Off Voters

Bhubaneswar : With 2019 Lok Sabha and assembly polls knocking at the doors, BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik Odisha’s longest-serving chief minister who has maintained winning streak in successive elections since 1997, has blown the lid off the basket of sops to entice the voters.

Yesterday Chief Minister Patnaik announced the enhancement of the honorarium of anganwadi workers to Rs 7,500 from Rs 6,000 per month while hiking the remuneration of mini-anganwadi workers to Rs 5,375 instead of Rs 4,125. The announcement is being largely perceived as pre-poll freebie to woo over one lakh workers and their family members to vote in favour of the region party in the ensuing elections.

While Naveen has opened the floodgates for a series of measures to try to win over the lower middle class, poorer sections and farmers, the populist measures are likely to have its adverse fiscal implication in draining out cash-strapped monetary resources of Odisha government.

Aware of the fact that farmers hold the key to polls, Naveen had launched the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme on December 31 last year to expedite growth in the agriculture sector and reduce poverty. The chief minister, who refused to go for farm loan waiver in the state, had claimed that KALIA scheme will cover 92 per cent of the cultivators, loanee as well as non-loanee farmers, share croppers (actual cultivators) and landless agricultural labourers. 12.4 lakh small and marginal farmers who are in transaction with the state government, will get Rs 5,000 each for one crop as per the provision of the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme. The State has to cough up Rs 10,180-crore from its coffer to implement the scheme.

Women in Odisha havd cast their votes proportionately higher than men in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. Naveen knows it well that women are becoming politically more aware and active and their vote will have a large impact in the coming polls. Therefore he seems to be leaving no stones unturned to woo the women voters.

In a step towards winning the confidence of women, Patnaik on January 5 had announced his government’s decision to extend interest-free loan facility to women Self Help Groups (SHGs).

Patnaik had announced Rs 3,000 cash incentive to each SHG for providing them access to smart phone. Seed money worth Rs 15,000 will be provided to each of the 3 lakh women SHG groups operating in the State under Mission Shakti programme, he had announced in a Women SHG convention at Puri.

On January 9 Patnaik had urged the Prime Minister to initiate steps to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill that would ensure a third of seats in Parliament and state assemblies for women. The reservation agenda is being viewed as an orchestrated move to expand the regional party’s grassroots presence across the State.

Patnaik had launched free energy-efficient LED bulb scheme on January 11 in a bid to woo the voters covered under food security schemes.

Each of the families covered under Naitional Food Security Act and State Food Security Scheme will be distributed free four numbers of 9 Watt LED bulbs. The LED bulbs will be distributed to designated beneficiaries on January 15 and January 20. The government is procuring 3.80 crore energy bulbs to cover the beneficiaries.

Slew of other schemes to win over the less well-off voters are said to be on the pipeline. The coming days will see its announcement.

The expenditure by the State Government in different schemes with an eye on next elections will take a toll on the debt burden which has shot up to the tune of Rs 92,000 crore.

It however remains to be seen how far the sops offered by Naveen-led government is translated into votes.