BRS, Cong, BJP in a free-for-all over freebies to woo Telangana voters

It’s free for all over freebies in Telangana Assembly elections with the main contenders for power vying with each other to promise the moon to the voters.

While it was Congress which made a headstart with its six guarantees, the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) tried to surpass that and not to be left behind, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dodged its anti-freebies policy to offer sops to the electorate.

The Congress pulled out all the stops to woo various sections, especially women, youth, farmers and different caste groups.

The party had started the exercise last year with farmers’ declaration. Since May this year, it has come out with declarations for youth, Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and minorities.

However, it was the launch of six guarantees on September 17 which set the ball rolling. Senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi unveiled the six guarantees at a mega rally in Hyderabad which coincided with the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting.

Upbeat over its victory in Karnataka, Congress drafted six guarantees on the lines of five guarantees given in the neighbouring state of Karnataka.

After failing to capture power in Telangana twice despite claiming credit for carving out the state, Congress expects the six guarantees to give it a maiden victory in the country’s youngest state, which goes to the polls on November 30.

Financial assistance of Rs 2,500 for every woman, free bus travel for women in TSRTC buses across Telangana, and cooking gas cylinder for Rs 500 are among the six guarantees.

Under Rythu Bharosa, it promised annual financial assistance of Rs15, 000 per acre for farmers, including tenant farmers. For agriculture labourers, it promised Rs 12,000 per year. Farmers will also get Rs 500 bonus per quintal for paddy crop above the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

If voted to power, Congress will give house sites and Rs 5 lakh for the homeless. It will also give 250 square yard plots to the Telangana movement fighters.

Under Gruha Jyothi, all households will get 200 units of free electricity. Under Yuva Vikasam, the Congress promised Vidya Bharosa Card worth Rs 5 lakh each for students and Telangana international schools in all mandals.

Under Cheyutha, the party promised Rs 4, 000 monthly pension and Rs 10 lakh health insurance.

Going beyond the six guarantees, Congress released its manifesto on November 17, offering a plethora of sops.

Waiver of farm loans up to Rs 2 lakh, interest-free farm loans up to Rs 3 lakh, a comprehensive crop insurance scheme for all major crops, Rs 1,00,000 and 10 grams of gold as Indiramma gift to the Hindu and Rs 1,60,000 for the minority girls at the time of their marriage, financial assistance of Rs 12,000 per year to every auto-rickshaw driver and social security to unorganised workers are among the promises announced in the 42-page manifesto titled ‘Abhaya Hastam’.

For unemployed youth, it promised annual job calendars and filling of 2 lakh vacant posts within a specified time period.

The Congress also promised revival of the ‘Bangaru Thalli’ scheme to provide financial assistance to every girl child born and free electric scooters to every girl studying higher education and are above the age of 18.

It has also promised a monthly honorary pension of Rs 25,000 to the parents or spouse of the martyrs of the first and second phases of the Telangana movement, and provide a government job to one member of their family.

It will also withdraw cases against the Telangana movement activists and allocate them a 250-yard house site, if voted to power.

A daily ‘praja darbar’ at the Chief Minister’s official residence, a judicial inquiry into irregularities in the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project and other corruption allegations, ‘Bhumata’ portal in place of the ‘Dharani’ portal, abolishing the current Contributory Pension Scheme (NPS) and re-introduction of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) are the other major promises.

A month after the announcement of six guarantees by the Congress, BRS released its manifesto. The ruling party promised more than what the Congress has assured.

Monthly financial assistance of Rs 3,000 to poor women, cooking gas cylinder for Rs 400, Rs 5 lakh insurance for every BPL family, increase in social security pensions and enhancement of investment support to farmers are among the major promises of BRS.

BRS President and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao promised that cooking gas cylinders for BPL families will be provided for Rs 400.

Social security pension for various categories of beneficiaries under Asara pension will be increased to Rs 5, 000 in five years from the present Rs 2,016.

After March 2024, the pension amount will be increased to Rs 3,016 and it will be enhanced every year by taking it to Rs 5,000 in the fifth year.

For the physically handicapped, the pension will be increased from the current Rs 4,016 to Rs 6,016 over the next five years. After March 2024, the amount will be increased to Rs 5,000 and every year it will be increased by Rs 300.

KCR also announced an insurance scheme for all BPL families.

The ‘KCR Bima’ scheme will cover 93 lakh Below Poverty Line (BPL) families holding ration cards.

For every family, the government will pay a premium of Rs 3,600 to Rs 4,000 to the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC). Under the scheme, Rs 5 lakh insurance will be paid to the beneficiary family in the event of the death of the head of the family.

The investment support for farmers under ‘Rythu Bandhu’ scheme will be increased from Rs 10,000 per year to Rs 15,000 per year. In the first year, the amount will be increased to Rs12, 000.

KCR also promised that if BRS is voted to power again, the coverage under Arogyasri health insurance scheme will be increased from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 15 lakh.

Fine rice will be supplied to BPL families through ration shops, BRS promised. Also, homeless poor will be provided house sites.

The BJP, which unveiled its manifesto on November 18, also offered sops, thus dodging its anti-freebies policy.

It promised that the beneficiaries of the Ujjwala Yojana will be given four gas cylinders per year for free. If voted to power, the BJP government will deposit Rs 2 lakh on the birth of a girl child. The amount will be given to her when she attains the age of 21. The party promised that the women Self-Help Groups will be given loans only on 1 per cent interest rate.

The BJP also said that it will reduce petrol and diesel prices by slashing Value Added Tax (VAT).

The party further promised financial assistance of Rs 2,500 per acre for small and marginal farmers. Under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, the farmers will be provided free insurance coverage.

The saffron party also promised that rice and paddy will be purchased at Rs 3,100 per quintal, and market intervention fund for turmeric and MSP on parboiled rice.

Those pursuing degree or professional courses will be given free laptops. According to the manifesto, the BJP will ensure that employment is provided to 2.5 youth in the next five years.

As per the BJP manifesto, if voted to power, the Chief Minister will be from Backward Classes.

It also promised to abolish 4 per cent reservation for Muslims, implement Uniform Civil Code and officially celebrate Hyderabad Liberation Day every year on September 17.