By M.K. Ashoka
Bengaluru, May 28 (IANS): The newly elected Congress government faces the challenge of delivering on its promises of freebies made during the election campaign in Karnataka.
The opposition parties, the BJP and the JD (S), have given a call to the people not to pay the electricity bills and bus fares in the state from June. If the ruling party fails to make a concrete announcement in this regard, the political parties would plunge into agitation mode.
The Congress made five promises which apparently won the election for them. Ten kilograms of free rice for every member of families with BPL cards under the Anna Bhagya scheme; Rs 2,000 monthly assistance for all women heads reeling under price rise under the Gruha Laxmi scheme; Rs 3,000 and Rs 1,500 allowance per month for two years for unemployed youth under the Yuva Nidhi scheme; free bus travel for women in public transport buses under the Shakthi scheme and 200 units of free electricity for all households under the Gruha Jyothi scheme.
The Gruha Laxmi scheme was inaugurated by AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi while Rahul Gandhi announced the Yuva Nidhi scheme. The ruling BJP rubbished the announcements and ignored them. It came up with the free three LPG cylinders scheme during major Hindu festivals and a half litre of Nandini milk for every BPL household under the Poshana scheme.
The promises by the Congress party seemed more endearing to the voters, in spite of the continuous attacks by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Both vehemently told the voters not to believe the promises of the Congress as the party did not keep its promises in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Post the elections, the Karnataka government in its first cabinet meeting gave in-principle approval to implement the party's five promises. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah declared that no matter what, these schemes would be implemented.
Siddaramaiah had said that the implementation of all these schemes would cost Rs 50,000 crores a year. The budget size of Karnataka is Rs 3.1 lakh crore and mobilizing the funds is not going to be a difficult task, he maintained. "I have presented seven budgets in the assembly. I am very much aware of finances," he said.
When we are paying Rs 56,000 crores as interest every year, can't we spend Rs 50,000 crore on our people, he stated.
Dy CM Shivakumar said that since the beneficiaries are to be identified and the processes have to be streamlined, it is going to take a little time.
The government held a second cabinet meeting on May 27, after the swearing in ceremony of 24 cabinet ministers. It is yet to deliver on its promises.
The BJP and JD (S) leaders are challenging the Congress to announce the schemes. Former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has charged that the Congress was voted to power for freebies and people didn't cast their votes after seeing the faces of the Congress leaders.
Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha has asked the people not to pay electricity bills if they are using 200 units of electricity. There have been many cases across the state of people refusing to pay electricity bills and women refusing to pay bus fares.
The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has already written to the government for clarity over the free travel for women. The corporation has also asked the government to release the funds in advance.
Officials said that there is an unprecedented demand for BPL cards in the state. The Food and Civil Supplies department has stopped accepting the applications for BPL cards. The department sources explained that they have not received instructions on when it is going to be opened.
After the announcements on freebies, the department has received 2.5 lakh applications. Between April 13 to 20, in Bengaluru alone 20,000 applications were received. The department says that everyday 500 applications are submitted for BPL cards.
Sources say that 78,000 applications for BPL cards are still pending. People are queuing up before the cyber centres to enrol themselves.
Brijesh Kalappa, senior leader of the AAP, declared that the AAP is ready to help the Congress to implement the promises on the lines of the Delhi government. "The promises made by the Congress party are 90 per cent copies of AAP programmes. The Congress should stop sending its officers unofficially to Punjab and Delhi and approach our state president Prithvi Reddy, we will extend all help to the party," he said.