Freebies galore in the manifestos of political parties in Uttar Pradesh where laptops and smart phones are being promised even as loan waivers to farmers remain the mainstay of the assurances. Taking a leaf out of populist schemes from the south, the ruling Samajwadi Party has promised pressure cooker, food grains for the poor and ghee and milk for students besides expanding pension benefits under different schemes to one crore people.
The Samajwadi Party (SP), which had caught everyone’s attention with its manifesto in the last elections that promised providing students with laptops and tablets, has tried to tame its horses this time. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had decimated all rivals in 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the state, has gone a step ahead, promising laptop to every student “without discrimination” along with 1 GB internet data every month for a period of one year.
The SP has this time promised laptops to meritorious students and smart phones for all. BJP and Congress, which is fighting the polls in alliance with SP, besides parties like Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have all promised free wi-fi internet services in all colleges and universities, apparently to cash in on the ‘Digital India’ wave.
Like in the past, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), however, has stayed clear of coming out with a manifesto this elections, with its supremo Mayawati stressing that her party does not believe in making promises but “acting” on them. Congress has promised to provide free school education for every girl child and give free bicycles to girl students from Class IX to XII. BJP, on the other hand, has announced free school education to all students and extending it till graduation for the meritorious ones.
Notably, to instill a technical approach and scientific attitude among the students who passed class XII the state government had launched a scheme to provide a laptop to them. In 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years, Rs 3,43,009.91 crore were spent and 14,82,093 students covered in the scheme. In 2016-17, it was proposed to cover 39,600 students, according to an official UP government data on planning. With nearly 20 crore people, Uttar Pradesh remains a populous state. It sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha and it has a 403-member Assembly.
The state, however, does not fare well in important sectors like education, health, industry, and agriculture engages over 70 per cent of its people. BSP has announced waiving farm loans of up to Rs 1 lakh, while BJP, Congress, SP and RLD have made a similar promise albeit without announcing any such upper limits. In a bid to woo farmers, parties including BJP and SP have promised round-the-clock power supply while Congress raised a similar pitch with its slogan “karza maaf, bijli half” (loan waiver and 50 per cent reduction in power bills).