Home >Politics >Policy >Will Indira Canteen give Siddaramaiah a boost in next year’s elections?
A file photo of Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
A file photo of Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Will Indira Canteen give Siddaramaiah a boost in next year’s elections?

The Indira Canteen completes a month of operations, marking the continuity of Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah's 'Bhagya' schemes targeted at the urban poor

Bengaluru: The Indira Canteen completes one month of operations on Sunday, marking the continuity of Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah’s “Bhagya" brand of populist schemes targeted at the urban poor, as the state heads into polls next year.

Since 2013, Siddaramaiah has actively pursued populist measures to ensure food security with schemes like “Anna Bhagya: (free rice) and “Ksheera Bhagya" (free milk for students), among others, to ensure the Congress-led government in Karnataka retains power in the state.

The canteens—loosely modelled on late Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitaha’s Amma canteens—are part of Siddaramaiah’s larger scheme, which includes wooing the voter base in Bengaluru where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues to have a strong presence.

The launch of Indira Canteens—in the fourth year of the government’s five-year term—has been dubbed a poll stunt, sending other political parties to ape the move with similar subsidised food ventures.

T.A. Sharavana, Janata Dal (Secular) member of legislative council, launched the privately funded “Namma Appaji Devegowda Canteen" in the first week of August as a tribute to former prime minister and party supremo H.D. Devegowda. The BJP had also announced that it would distribute rice to the poor affected by the recent flooding in Bengaluru to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday on Sunday.

But with more focus and state funding, the Indira Canteen that serves almost 120,000 meals a day currently, is set to increase its presence post 2 October when the rest of the 97 canteens will opened. Siddaramaiah announced that every one of the 198 wards in Bengaluru will have an Indira Canteen.

“We have been coming here for the last three weeks for lunch. The food is good and costs us half of what we pay at other carts or hotels. Giving food to the poor is never a bad idea," Sharana Gowda, a daily wage labourer from Raichur district said. But he and many others Mint spoke to in at least four such establishments said that the canteen itself may not influence their vote in favour of the Congress next year.

Analysts and canteen customers said that the venture itself may not have a bearing on the elections next year.

Most of those who frequent the canteen are migrant workers, who say that their votes will depend on development in their respective constituencies, the lack of which has forced agricultural labourers, farmers and others out of their villages to cities like Bengaluru.

“Generally speaking, whatever the time of the launch of a welfarist scheme, the government will expect to be thanked for it at the time of elections," Chandan Gowda, political analyst and professor of sociology at Azim Premji University, said.

But neither analysts nor customers are sure about the actual influence the canteens will have on voting patterns since the venture is available only in Bengaluru.

Gowda said the impact on elections could be higher if all the “Bhagya" schemes could be looked at together. “Yes, especially if the canteens planned to be set up in the taluk and district headquarters become operational," he added.

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