Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav may not have been able to fix the responsibility for the Samajwadi Party’s dismal performance at the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. But he has been quick in identifying the futility of his favourite freebie schemes -- like laptops, unemployment allowance or special scholarships for girls -- which failed to give the party any political dividends.
No wonder that he has decided to dump these two very populist programmes in this year’s 2.74-lakh crore budget that was tabled by him before the state assembly in Lucknow on Friday.
He, however, persistently parried questions on the issue. Each time he was asked to give reasons for dumping such schemes that were understood to be very close to his heart, he chose to digress to an unrelated subject during the budget briefing.
Evidently, the freebies were aimed at serving the party’s ultimate political objectives. Akhilesh and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav were confident that these freebies together with the party’s vote bank on caste and religious lines would sail the party through. That was the reason Akhilesh chose to remain complacent on issues of governance. It was too late in the day that the party leadership realised the futility of their bait.
“We are introducing e-books in schools. Why don’t you talk about that?” was the standard reply that he gave to every query about abandoning the laptop scheme and scrapping of unemployment allowance.
Interestingly, Akhilesh spent around Rs 2,800 crore on the purchase of 15,000 laptops for all students passing Std XII, while he withheld his other poll promise of giving away tablets to all students passing Std X. Both schemes were to be implemented across board without any criterion of family income or marks obtained.
Struggling to give any reason for giving up his most cherished schemes, the CM told mediapersons, “Well we are focusing more on rural and urban infrastructure for which funding has been enhanced appreciably.” He, however, shirked from explaining why all of that could not be incorporated when the budgetary provisions were 24 per cent higher than last year’s budget.
“A provision of Rs 95,039 crore has been made under the plan of which 75 per cent is earmarked for development of agriculture, farmers and rural areas,” he emphasised.
Of the allocations made towards infrastructure, the lion’s share goes to the state capital. That includes laying of a metro-rail and creation of an IT city, together with a cancer hospital in Lucknow. Significantly, a special provision has been made for development of another IT city in Agra, in close proximity to the Firozabad Lok Sabha constituency now represented by his cousin Akshaya Yadav.
This cousin is the son of SP National General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, who apart from being Akhilesh’s uncle was also the party’s “think-tank”.
While an allocation of Rs 750 crore has been made for “improving facilities and modernization of police stations”, there is no mention about enhancement of security to women against whom crimes have been on the rise ever since the SP government assumed power in the state.
Also, even as the apprehension of a serious drought is looming large, the budget has no provision to deal with such a situation. Issues like controlling prices of essential commodities or rising levels of corruption at all levels in the government have also not been touched upon in the budget.
Image: Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav