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Business News/ Elections / Assembly Elections/  Rythu Bandhu: How can welfare scheme decide Telangana Assembly Poll winner?
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Rythu Bandhu: How can welfare scheme decide Telangana Assembly Poll winner?

The Election Commission has asked Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) to discontinue their Rythu Bandhu fund distribution among farmers in Telangana ahead of the Assembly elections.

According to a senior BRS functionary, KCR wants to strengthen the organisational network by intensifying the membership drive and take the party deep into the rural areas of Maharashtra, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024 (PTI)Premium
According to a senior BRS functionary, KCR wants to strengthen the organisational network by intensifying the membership drive and take the party deep into the rural areas of Maharashtra, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024 (PTI)

Telangana Assembly Elections 2023: On the week the last crucial Assembly polls would be conducted, the Election Commission asked Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) to discontinue their Rythu Bandhu fund distribution among farmers in Telangana. 

The Telangana Assembly Elections is the last of the semi-final series ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections. The Telangana Assembly Polls are scheduled to be conducted on 30 November and the results for the polls will be declared on 3 December. 

Telangana will see a three-way competition to win the Legislative Assembly seats- Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, and BRS. However, a complaint by the Congress put a stop to BRS' biggest welfare scheme right ahead of the crucial Assembly polls. 

The EC said that through Rythu Bandhu, BRS had violated the condition under which this was allowed while the Model Code of Conduct was in place. The ruling BRS has urged the Election Commission to reconsider the decision.

What is Rythu Bandhu welfare scheme?

A flagship welfare scheme of the KCR-led government, Rythu Bandhu, promises 4,000 per acre to Telangana farmers twice a year for the two sowing seasons – kharif and rabi. This was the welfare scheme that BRS believed would help them retain the seat of power in state. 

The Rythu Bandhu scheme that began in 2018 had 58 lakh farmers as takers, which grew to 70 lakh takers as of July 2023. 

In 2015, the Telangana government allocated 12,000 crore for the scheme in its budget. The amount was raised to 5,000 per acre in 2019-2020 fiscal. In the 2023 budget, the state government earmarked 15,075 crore for the scheme, reports Indian Express

Criticisms of Rythu Bandhu

The welfare scheme of the KCR-led BRS government in Telangana had run into controversy after it was alleged that scores of tenant farers would not be beneficiaries of this welfare scheme. It was alleged that rich – politicians, high-ranking government officials and others who own large swathes of agricultural lands – and others also reaping the benefits.

Why did the scheme irk the EC?

The Congress had protested against EC nod to disbursement under the scheme, saying this would be an advantage to the ruling party. On October 25, a delegation led by former Telangana Congress chief N Uttam Kumar had urged the poll panel to halt the disbursement of the second instalment in November, claiming that it would influence voters.

In a November 25 order, the EC had allowed the BRS government to continue disbursement of funds under the scheme, under the condition that it would not use the scheme in political discourse while campaigning, no beneficiaries would be added and that no hike in the amount of financial assistance would be promised while the Model Code of Conduct was in force.

However, BRS and Congress did end up in a verbal competition on the amount that would be disbursed. 

However, Telangana Finance Minister Harish Rao, addressing a public meeting in Palakurthi, said, “The Congress is promising to give 15,000 per acre. We are already giving 10,000 per acre and will increase it to 16,000 per acre if we come to power. The disbursement will be made on Monday (November 27). Even before farmers have tea and breakfast, the amount will be in their account."

In its order halting the disbursement, the EC said, “The Commission has observed that Rao, who is also a candidate sponsored by the BRS Party from Siddipet… a star campaigner of the party and also the Finance Minister of Telangana, has not only violated the provisions of MCC but also conditions laid down as above by publicising the release under the scheme, and thereby disturbed the level playing field in the on-going election process.

Would EC order affect BRS' chances of winning?

KCR and his government have been harping on the “success" of the scheme in the run-up to the elections, saying it has changed the lives of farmers.

Telangana has around 1.43 crore acres of farmlands. Farmers or people associated with the agriculture sector form a significant chunk of Telangana’s population (around 55%) and the farming community’s backing is a key factor in who will form the government.

 

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Published: 29 Nov 2023, 11:26 AM IST
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