New Delhi: The Council of ministers headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday deliberated over the flagship schemes of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and ways to improve the status of India’s backward districts.

This comes in the backdrop of the central government roping in senior bureaucrats from various ministries last November to act as prabhari officers to rapidly transform backward districts. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government is looking to reap political dividends out of success stories.

“The council of ministers discussed ways of raising the status of backward districts at par with better performing districts. It also discussed the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan. The meeting also reviewed the performance of the Modi government in four years, shared experience and deliberated on the road ahead," said a government official aware of the development requesting anonymity.

Speaking at a conference organized by the NITI Aayog on transformation of the most backward districts in the country earlier this year, Modi said that these districts should not be seen as just poor or backward, but as sites of potential transformation.

“The council of ministers discussed the gram Swaraj Abhiyan 2.0 with a focus on uplifting the socio economic standard of people in 117 aspirational districts. It took stock of the four year of the NDA and deliberated on how to project a collective growth story to the public. The penetration of mudra loan schemes in underprivileged areas and districts was also discussed as it will help in creation of jobs in rural India," said a second government official who also didn’t want to be named.

Distress in rural India has been fuelled by consecutive years of record harvests that have led to a steep fall in crop prices.

“Also, presentations including one on Gram Swaraj Abhiyan was made," said a third person aware of the development requesting anonymity, referring to the scheme aimed at improving the socio-economic indices of India’s villages that are lagging behind in areas such as health, financial inclusion and electricity connections.

The programme launched by Modi on 14 April aims to ensure that 16,500 least developed villages are covered by electricity, health and insurance for all by 15 August.

“Broadly the meeting focused on grassroot level image building of NDA," said a fourth person also requesting anonymity.

Mint reported on 6 June about the central government plan to send 700 bureaucrats to more than 45,000 villages to not only ensure that the masses have access to social welfare schemes but also showcase alternative livelihood models to women and farmers.

This comes in the backdrop of BJP president Amit Shah last month stating that the NDA government would expand the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan to cover all villages in the aspirational districts of the country before the 2019 general elections.

The government has achieved considerable success in the execution of the flagship schemes targeting rural India in its four years in office. The key initiatives to its rural outreach programme were to provide free cooking gas connections and electrification of rural households, besides creating a social safety net for the masses.

The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) and Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or the Saubhagya scheme, are all part of this initiative to empower rural India.

The NDA’s strategy to leverage the success of its most popular schemes, along with Swachh Bharat Mission, or clean India campaign, has already enabled it to make deep political inroads into India’s semi-urban and rural landscape.

Gireesh Chandra Prasad, Jyotika Sood and Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.