Competitive populism, new key word for fronts

Manifestos of all three fronts full of welfare schemes

Competitive populism seems to be the keyword for major political fronts in the State, going by their manifestos for the upcoming Assembly polls.

The thrust now is on promising schemes for the poor, senior citizens, women and children, patients, farmers, the homeless and differently-abled people, pensioners and home makers. The political parties here appear to be following the model of the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu, where free schemes are a given in any poll manifesto. Some economists, however, have raised questions about going gung-ho on welfare schemes without specifying details about resource mobilisation.

Opinions from people

Unlike earlier, the preparation of the poll manifestos itself was a public relations exercise for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) this time. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan conducted district-level meetings with people from different walks of life and sought their opinions that could be included in the document. The UDF too held consultations with people before releasing its poll manifesto, and Shashi Tharoor, MP, was in charge of the process.

It was the LDF which first hit the trail with its manifesto seeking to increase the social welfare pension from ₹1,600 to ₹2,500 in five years. A pension scheme was proposed for homemakers from poor families. The LDF also promised to prepare a list of extremely poor families and offered financial help in the range of ₹1 lakh and ₹15 lakh for 45 lakh units among them. It sought to implement home delivery services for senior citizens and a survey for them as well. The LDF promised land and houses for all the landless people, including those from the Scheduled Castes, and proposed to construct five lakh dwellings in five years. All the Scheduled Tribe families were promised an acre each.

Pension

Not to be left behind, the UDF too promised to implement its Nyuntam Aay Yojna (NYAY) scheme that ensures ₹6,000 a month for poor families and said the social welfare pension would be hiked to ₹3,000. The Congress-led coalition proposed a monthly pension of ₹2,000 for homemakers in the 40-60 age group and those excluded in the NYAY scheme. A special commission was promised for the senior citizens, and a special cell to probe into the crime against women and children. The UDF too sought to build five lakh houses for the homeless, and promised health insurance for all, along with writing off the debts of bed-ridden patients as well as those with 80% disabilities.

The poll manifesto released by the National Democratic Alliance too has welfare promises, including social welfare pension of ₹3,500, jobs for at least one member of each family with a monthly salary of ₹20,000, six LPG refills for free for below poverty line families and ₹5,000 for bed-ridden patients among them. It has proposed a ‘Karanavar Mission’ for the welfare of senior citizens.

With the campaign reaching a crescendo in the coming days, the impact of these promises on the voting choices of the electorate will be something to watch out for.

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