After AAP Echoed BJP’s Hindutva, UP Budget Copies Freebies Formula
In the run-up to the Delhi elections, the BJP unleashed its big gun of political Hindutva, Yogi Adityanath, to help polarise votes against Arvind Kejriwal. As we now know, Kejriwal simply borrowed a page out of the Modi-Yogi playbook and became a soft-Hindu. This, most pundits agree, played a crucial role in helping the AAP’s jhadoo sweep Delhi.
Now, it is the UP CM’s turn to borrow from Kejriwal’s own victory formula. Just as the AAP government had gone on a ‘freebie’ overdrive in the last six months, the Yogi government’s latest budget, announced on Tuesday, has unveiled a whole host of subsidy schemes. Yogi doesn’t need help with Hindutva, but he would very much like to give handouts to buy some goodwill, especially from young people in the state.
Allocations for the Unemployed Youth
In fact, the big announcement today, targets UP’s unemployed youth. The Yogi-government has started two new schemes – Mukhyamantri Shikshuta Protsahan Yojana & Yuva Udyamita Vikas Yojana – to help solve UP’s terrible jobs-crisis. Under the first scheme, young students will get Rs 2,500 per month along with vocational training. After that, the state government will ensure, that they are placed in regular jobs.
The second scheme, with its attractive acronym YUVA, is a type of start-up fund for young entrepreneurs. YUVA hubs will be set-up in each of the 75 districts in the state. The UP government will bring all government schemes that are meant to promote self-employment under the YUVA umbrella, allocating a total of Rs.1,200 crore for it. Yogi sarkar claims it will help more than one lakh young people start their own businesses.
The budget announcements come just a few days after UP’s labour minister admitted in assembly that the number of registered unemployed in the state, had risen by 58% to nearly 34 lakh in less than two years. CMIE’s data suggests that last year, nearly 10% of job-seekers in UP remained unemployed. That’s a huge rise from 2018, when the unemployment rate was less than 6%. Yogi Adityanath knows this huge rate of joblessness could leave a youth-sized hole in his vote-base, when UP elects a new government in less than two years.
Money for Everyone in Yogi-Raj
But, it is not just the young who need handouts. The Yogi-budget has money for everyone. The old Kanya Sumangala Yojana, which gives cash to girls at various stages of their lives has been allocated Rs.1,200 crore, this year as well. The farmer’s accident insurance scheme has been revamped to include share-croppers.
The government aims to build 5 lakh new homes in the state’s villages, under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
MGNREGA is a key focus area this year. The UP government says it provided 14 crore 59 lakh man-days of work till 20th November last year. At a similar strike-rate the state will end up with 20 crore man-days of work under MGNREGA in 2019-20. Its target is to increase that to 35-crore in 2020-21. If that happens it will be a huge boost for rural employment and rural wages.
It is unlikely that a sophisticated ruling party like the BJP, will use these subsidy schemes as a blunt instrument. Some of these are likely to be targeted towards social-groups that are at the margins of its voter-base.
Electoral Gains Centric Welfarism of UP Government
The budget speech itself gives us a passing glimpse into this, when it highlights the beneficiaries of previous schemes. It tells us that 7,000 musahar families got homes under PMAY last year. It also tells us that, for the first time, 38 villages where vanatangiya, musahar, kol & tharu communities live, were recognised as ‘revenue villages’, which gave them access to ration-cards and government-run health & education schemes. These same communities are being given priority in the state’s own housing scheme for the poor, called the Mukhyamantri Awas Yojana.
Ayodhya gets Rs 85 crore for developing tourism, and another Rs 500 crore will be spent for a new Ayodhya airport. Rs 180 crore has been allocated for a new cultural centre in Varanasi. And, a project to expand and beautify the Kashi Vishwanath temple will cost the exchequer Rs 200 crore.
Interestingly, the same mainstream media, which excoriated Kejriwal for the subsidies given by the Delhi government, has given Yogi a free pass. Hardly anyone is talking about the various ‘populist’ schemes in the UP government’s budget. Some news outlets have even highlighted the Yogi sarkar’s spin that this is the state’s biggest budget ever, forgetting that every annual budget, in every state, is always its biggest budget.
(The author was Senior Managing Editor, NDTV India & NDTV Profit. He now runs the independent YouTube channel ‘Desi Democracy’. He tweets @AunindyoC. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)