Hyderabad: The Telugu Desam Party (TDP)-led Andhra Pradesh government is banking on welfare schemes for farmers, women self-help groups, unemployed youth, and pensioners, despite a cash crunch, to win the upcoming assembly and Lok Sabha polls. Through a handful of government programmes, for which funds were allocated before the announcement of the election schedule, the government is set to spend over ₹15,000 crore on its citizens.
All payments, barring the salaries of state government employees, have been put on hold to disburse money for welfare schemes, senior TDP leaders said on condition of anonymity. The money will be disbursed to the beneficiaries of the schemes, of which two were announced earlier this year, so that the party can reap electoral benefits and beat anti-incumbency, the TDP leaders said.
The N. Chandrababu Naidu-led government had in January announced an annual financial assistance of ₹10,000 for women in self-help groups under the Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas programme. This will benefit 9.4 million women, who will receive the money between February and April. This alone would cost the state exchequer ₹9,750 crore, said one of the TDP leaders mentioned above.
The government will also implement the ‘Annadata Sukhibhava’ scheme, which was announced in February and is based on the ‘Rythu Bandhu’ input subsidy scheme for farmers initiated by Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.
In the ‘Rythu Bandhu’ input subsidy scheme , land-owning farmers receive ₹4,000 per acre per year for both the rabi and kharif seasons. Farmers in Andhra Pradesh who are eligible for the Centre’s Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme — wherein small and marginal farmers with less than 5 acres will receive ₹6,000 every year in three instalments — will receive an additional ₹9,000 per annum under the ‘Annadata Sukhibhava’ scheme. Farmers who are not eligible for the central scheme will also receive ₹10,000 per year, while tenant farmers will receive ₹15,000 every year in instalments.
“Through this alone, 6.9 million farmers are going to benefit and ₹1,000 crore has already been transferred to beneficiaries in the first installment last month," the TDP leader said.
The Andhra Pradesh government has also doubled the pension for senior and disabled citizens to ₹2,000 per month, besides paying a monthly grant of ₹2,000 to educated unemployed youth.
“Till April, over ₹15,000 crore will be spent on these welfare schemes. About 500,000 unemployed youngsters are getting the money, and these things will help us in the upcoming polls," the official said. The ruling TDP’s main opposition is the YSR Congress Party, led by Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Political analysts said given that Rao’s ‘Rythu Bandhu’ and other welfare schemes led to his huge victory (88 of 119 seats) in the Telangana Assembly elections last year, Naidu may do well if he manages to pass on the benefits in time.
“Historically, these things have worked, and there is evidence. However, there is also strong anti-incumbency against the (state) government. We have to see whether these schemes will offset it. One really needs to understand how much does the Andhra Pradesh government really have, because one has to see how long Naidu can sustain this. KCR (Rao) is showing the way, and you are following. But you need a long-term solution, instead of such election ploys to buy votes," said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.