The BJP believes that the Union Budget’s thrust on welfare schemes such as free LPG connection and health insurance for the poor will resonate with the masses and help the party electorally ahead of assembly polls in a number of key states. The party top brass has briefed leaders on the key pro-poor and pro-farmers highlights of the budget and asked them to reach out to the masses with these details. The opposition claims that there is a growing rural distress and believes it can use the issue to corner the BJP. The BJP’s below-par performance in Gujarat, where it again formed a government, and its comprehensive defeat in three Rajasthan bypolls has boosted the morale of the Congress and opposition parties in the run up to crucial assembly polls followed by Lok Sabha elections scheduled for next year. The Left-ruled Tripura goes to the polls on February 18, followed by the Congress-ruled Karnataka, where the elections are expected to be held in May, and then in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh by this year end.
BJP sources said victory in states like Tripura and, more importantly, Karnataka will belie the opposition’s claim of a larger rural distress aimed against the party and insisted that the budget has given them weapons to fight it. The key budget provisions include the announcement of a minimum support price for farmers that will be 1.5 times of the cost incurred by them, a health insurance of Rs 5 lakh for 10 crore poor families, dubbed ‘NaMo care’ by BJP leaders, construction of 2 crore more toilets in the new financial year and giving free LPG connection to 8 crore poor women.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cited these measures among others at a BJP Parliamentary Party meeting on the day the budget was presented to exhort the party’s law-makers to inform the masses about them. He had projected the BJP as a party which did not merely talk about social justice but also implement it.
Party president Amit Shah too dwelt at length on these provisions to assert that they will empower the poor and weaker sections of the society.
Under Modi and Shah, the BJP has managed to deepen its support among the Other Backward Classes and Dalits, resulting in the party being in power in 19 states, including those it rules with allies- an unprecedented high in its history.