NEW DELHI: After suffering electoral defeats in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is trying to address the problem of rural distress before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The decision to launch the PM-Kisan scheme, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in Gorakhpur on Sunday, was expected because of administrative as well as political necessities of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders said.

“The decision of the government to launch the PM-Kisan scheme from Gorakhpur makes sense because the programme is for marginal farmers and Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of small farmers in the country. Politically also, UP sends the maximum number of members of Parliament (MPs) to the Lok Sabha and thus, obviously, the state is important for the BJP," said a senior minister in the Uttar Pradesh government on condition of anonymity.

Uttar Pradesh holds the key for BJP to win the 2019 elections and return to power. The state was responsible for bringing the BJP to power in the 2014 general polls as the NDA had won 73 out of the 80 seats in the state to cross the halfway mark in the Lok Sabha.

Interestingly, this is not the first time Modi has gone to UP to launch a central scheme. Modi launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), popularly known as Ujjwala, in Ballia in May 2016, ahead of the UP assembly elections in March 2017.

“The government has promised to transform the lives of the people, especially those who are socially and financially deprived, so it is important to reach out to poor people in Uttar Pradesh. If a scheme of the government has to succeed, the implementation of the scheme in Uttar Pradesh is crucial. People who have benefitted from Ujjwala scheme did vote for the BJP in the Assembly polls," said the minister quoted above.

The BJP leadership has come up with an elaborate plan for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the party has decided to reach out to all the beneficiaries of various government schemes to urge them to support the NDA government in Delhi. “There are at least 22 crore people who have benefitted from different government schemes. BJP members would reach out to them and ask them to support the party in the general elections," said the BJP minister.

The choice of Gorakhpur for launching the PM-Kisan scheme is interesting because in the Lok Sabha bypoll in Gorakhpur in March 2018, the BJP lost to a combined force of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The loss of Gorakhpur was significant as it is represented by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and the bypoll was the first electoral test for the SP-BSP alliance against the BJP in the state.

The timing of the launch is also crucial because Modi represents Varanasi in Lok Sabha and Gorakhpur is also in eastern Uttar Pradesh. “We are going to talk about development and welfare of the poor in the 2019 general elections. The SP and the BSP have come together only to defeat the BJP and there is no other agenda for the alliance. It will be a challenge in the polls, but we are confident because of the popularity of Modi," said the BJP leader.

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