Advisers told Naidu that sops given just before polls would have greater impact.
Hyderabad: Populist goodies and sops are raining in Andhra Pradesh which will go to Assembly elections along with that of Lok Sabha in April-May this year. Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu has issued three post-dated cheques worth Rs 10,000 to each of 91 lakh women in the groups of DWACRA (Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas) in the state.
The first cheque of Rs 2,500 is to be deposited in the first week of February, another of Rs 3,500 is to be deposited in first week of Mach and the last with Rs 4,000 is to be deposited in the first week of April this year. An estimated Rs 12,000 crore is being released by the state government which approached banks to fund this scheme, named as “Pasupu-Kumkuma 2019”.
Besides, the government will give free of cost smart phones to all the women in the name of helping them in their small and tiny business ventures. There are about five to six lakh DWACRA women groups in Andhra Pradesh for the last three decades. The distribution of post-dated cheques is timed with picking up of election season, the higher amount of Rs 4,000 cheque is planned days before the polling in April.
CM Naidu has taken the decision to give away Rs 10,000 in post-dated cheques to women, after taking a cue from the recent success of TRS government-led by CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) in neighboring Telangana, where the Rythu Bandhu scheme’s second installment cheques of Rs 4,000 reached farmers’ bank accounts days before the Assembly elections on 7 December.
Naidu’s advisers told him that any governmental sops given to people days before the polling date would have greater impact as the public memory would be shorter. Naidu as the CM of combined AP in 2004 could not win the election, though he had distributed sops to around one crore families in the state, much before election time.
So, he has timed the free cash benefit of Rs 10,000 to women in three post-dated cheques closer to the election time. The women development and child welfare department of Andhra Pradesh is yet to decided on the brand and cost of smart phones to be distributed to the women, also free of cost. Sources said that each mobile would cost around Rs 4,000 plus a SIM card.
Naidu ordered all his ministers and MLAs to distribute the first of the three post-dated cheques on 2,3 and 4 February among the DWACRA groups by holding public meetings in all villages. He personally addressed three regional meetings at Nelapadu in Guntur district, Kadapa and Visakhapatnam last week.
He told the women that he was the first Chief Minister in the country to give away Rs10,000 in three months’ span to each women. “Has anyone of your husband or father or brother given you this much of amount without asking how you will spend it? I think, never. But, I, as your elder brother, have decided to give you this money as I know you would spend it wisely,” said Naidu at the Nelapadu meeting last week.
Naidu told the women that he was not giving this money because Andhra has enough money. “I have no “dabbu” (money) with me now, but I have “manasu” (heart) to give you this money. Telangana, which is a surplus state, too, hasn’t given a single rupee to their DWACRA women. I always wanted to see empowerment of women,” he said.
This Rs 10,000 direct cash benefit to women is in addition to waiver of loans worth Rs 10,000 to every woman last year. The government has released around Rs 8,500 crore for the scheme last year. Along with this fresh distribution of Rs 10,000, the government would be spending around Rs 21,100 crore on sops to DWACRA women.
Amid reports that he faces an uphill task in the coming elections due to challenge from his bête noir Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress, Naidu has announced enhancement of old age and destitute pensions from the present Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 and an unemployment allowance of around Rs 2,000 to 17 lakh jobless youth in the state.
Apart from this, the Naidu government has been distributing “Chandranna Kanuka”, a gift pack of six essential commodities for the poor families through the civil supplies department, with a budget of Rs 500 crore. The government is planning to hand over another round of gift packs to the needy around Ugadi festival that falls during the elections in April.