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Election Alchemy: Can Welfare Schemes Propel BRS's Comeback Bid in Telangana?


The question of whether schemes truly impact voting behaviour remains a subject of ongoing research and debate. Scholars investigate the multifaceted relationship between campaign strategies, electoral schemes, and voter choices, aiming to discern the nuanced ways in which political manoeuvres influence the decision-making process of voters in diverse contexts. Some studies suggest that welfare policies with emphasis on direct transfers have won votes and political support for ruling parties. Although welfare policies may not be the decisive factor in explaining voter choice, studies suggest that the BJP saw a statistically significant increase in support among the beneficiaries of certain welfare schemes. This article dives into the impact welfare schemes have had on Telangana and the potential influence on the trajectory of the upcoming assembly elections.

The Bharat Rashtra Samithi (formerly Telangana Rashtra Samithi) led by K Chandrashekar Rao is placing its electoral bets on welfare schemes as it seeks a third consecutive term in office. Nevertheless, a resurgent Congress is countering with promises of comparable or enhanced welfare initiatives, aiming to sway public opinion in their favour. The BRS on the other hand confronts challenges, including corruption allegations and anti-incumbency sentiments.

Initiative Population Coverage Budget Allocated (FY-2023-24) Beneficiaries Benefits Provided
Rythu Bandhu 36% Rs.15,075 Crore 70 lakh farmers Rs 5,000 per acre per season
Dalit Bandhu 18.2% Rs 17,700 Crore 1,30,000 families Rs 10 lakh for self-employment
Aasara Pensions 82% Rs 12,000 crore 39 lakh Monthly pension disbursements

Source of Table: Telangana State Statistical Abstract

BRS's flagship initiative, Rythu Bandhu, stands out as a unique Agricultural Investment Support Scheme designed to provide Rs.5,000 per acre as assistance to every landowning farmer during each crop season. The primary objective is to shield farmers from falling into a debt trap.

This scheme has garnered substantial support for BRS, particularly among the farming community. In addition to Rythu Bandhu, BRS has endeared itself to the farming constituency by offering farm loan waivers. However, the Congress has pledged to increase the assistance amount to Rs.10,000 under the Rythu Bandhu scheme.

Despite its success, Rythu Bandhu faces criticism for its limitations. The scheme primarily benefits land-owning farmers, leaving out tenant farmers who are unable to avail themselves of its advantages. Additionally, the absence of an upper limit on landholding eligibility has led to arguments that the scheme disproportionately benefits affluent farmers, potentially exacerbating economic disparities. Tenant farmers, feeling excluded, may harbour discontent with the BRS government and opt not to support them in the upcoming elections. However, a majority of this voter base may vote for BRS.

The Dalit Bandhu Scheme, a distinctive initiative introduced by the Telangana government, aims to foster economic development within families of the Scheduled Caste (SC) community. This innovative program extends financial assistance of Rs. 10 lakhs to eligible SC families, empowering them to initiate their own businesses or entrepreneurial ventures. The overarching goal is to cultivate self-reliance and uplift the standard of living within the community.

Despite its noble objectives, the scheme's implementation has faced challenges. A limited number of individuals have been able to access its benefits, with reports indicating irregularities during the initial phases, where legislators were allegedly involved in taking commissions for including applicants in the scheme. Additionally, the unfulfilled promise by the KCR government to appoint a Dalit Chief Minister has contributed to dissatisfaction within the community.

It is evident that not all Dalit voters are content with the BRS government, and this discontent is rooted in both the limited reach of the Dalit Bandhu Scheme and unmet political assurances. The electoral support for BRS within the Dalit community seems contingent on the individuals who have directly benefited from the scheme or hold hope for future benefits, reflecting a nuanced perspective within this voter segment.

The Aasara pensioners constitute a pivotal vote bank for BRS. This monthly pension initiative serves as a crucial safety net, ensuring that vulnerable segments of society can afford basic necessities without the burden of financial worry. Specifically catering to the elderly, disabled, individuals with HIV-AIDS, widows, incapacitated weavers, and toddy tappers, the scheme aims to support those who have lost their means of livelihood due to age.

As the elections draw near, BRS has committed to a significant increase in the monthly pension, starting at Rs 3,016 and set to reach Rs 6,016 by 2029. However, this announcement, made in June, faced implementation challenges, with numerous pensioners reporting that they did not receive the promised amounts.

For the 335,000 physically challenged beneficiaries, the pension is expected to incrementally rise from Rs 3,016 to Rs 6,000 in phases. In response to the Congress's promise to raise it from Rs 2,016 to Rs 4,000 if elected, BRS has pledged an increase to Rs 5,000, beginning with Rs 3,000 the following year and incrementally rising by Rs 500 annually.

While these recent commitments could sway voters towards BRS, the prevailing lack of trust due to unfulfilled promises poses a significant challenge. The discrepancy between announcements and actual disbursements may impact the perception of the BRS government's reliability and people may choose to give Congress a chance.

BRS has strategically emphasised the shortcomings of the Congress government in its bid for electoral success. However, it's crucial to acknowledge the prevailing dissatisfaction among the people with the ruling BRS party. The state grapples with an unemployment crisis, compounded by issues such as leaks in government exams. While the welfare schemes have garnered support, they are not without challenges. As the 2023 Assembly Election approaches, the critical question arises: Can BRS secure victory through its welfare schemes or will the electorate be swayed by the promises put forth by the Congress? The answer to this question will not only shape the current electoral landscape but also guide the strategies that need to be adopted in the upcoming 2024 general elections.


Sara Nasreen

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