MP CM Chouhan follows in Congress’ footsteps, to enhance freebies

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party is not seemingly averse to learning from its foes. Congress’ electoral victories in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, achieved through freebies and welfare promises, are being modelled by Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Bharatiya Janata Party to secure victory and fight anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh.  

Chouhan, also fondly known as ‘mama ji’, is expected to unveil a gift of enhanced payout to women in the state this Raksha Bandhan.

The MP government is expected to increase the payout under the Ladli Behna Yojna, which currently pays women above the age of 21 years an amount of Rs 1,000 per month, to Rs 1,500 per month, sources said. 

The enhanced package is being touted as a game changer by the saffron unit which is plagued by massive anti-incumbency as the BJP has been in power for almost two decades, barring a brief period of about 15 months when Kamal Nath-led Congress government was in power.

Apart from an enhanced payout, the Chief Minister is also expected to make more welfare measure announcements targeted at women and other underprivileged groups. 

The BJP feels that Chouhan has a positive image amongst the women and the party is actively targeting the 50 per cent of the voters which are expected to tilt the balance in Mamaji’s favour, sources said. About 1.25 crore women are expected to benefit under the scheme.

The announcements by Chouhan came weeks after Congress leader and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath announced a slew of freebies including 100 units of electricity and a promise that women will be given Rs 1500 per month from the Congress government without any pre-conditions.

The Congress has also promised restoration of the Old Pension Scheme, a move that proved to be a game-changer in the party’s win in Himachal Pradesh earlier.

Interestingly, the Chouhan government is going full throttle on the freebies schemes in Madhya Pradesh despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacking the opposition parties, including Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, over their freebie package announcements ahead of polls in other states.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah will also be visiting Madhya Pradesh on August 20 where he is scheduled to launch the Gareeb Kalyan Maha Abhiyan. Under the scheme, more welfare measures and freebies are expected to be promised to the BPL card holders in the state.

With the electoral campaign in the central Indian state heating up it seems that showering freebies on voters, by both the ruling BJP and opposition Congress, is being tried as the foolproof way to secure power.

Securing a win in Madhya Pradesh is important for both the BJP and the Congress. The saffron unit feels that if it is able to form a government in Madhya Pradesh its chances of retaining its tally of Lok Sabha seats from the central Indian state would be much better.

In 2018, the BJP was only able to secure 109 out of 230 seats in the MP Assembly, paving the way for the formation of Kamal Nath-led government after Congress was able to win 114 seats. Though the BJP was later able to engineer a split in the Congress with the help of Jyotiraditya Scindia and came back to power.

With 29 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP had secured 27 seats in the 2014 general election while it had bettered its performance and secured 28 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The saffron unit hopes to maintain its central Indian citadel as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to seek his third consecutive term in the 2024 general elections.

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