According to BJP strategists, PMJAY and the PM Ujjwala Yojana will form the nucleus of the Modi government’s re-election campaign. Veena Mani, Sanjeeb Mukherjee and Archis Mohan report.
Some months ago, the Centre re-launched a scheme to provide affordable medicines as the Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana, which had an intriguing acronym, PMBJP.
But the name was refined again and the scheme is now known as Pradhan Mantri, or Prime Minister, Jan Aushadhi Yojana, or PMJAY. In Hindi, the acronym means ‘hail the PM’, and this is exactly how it is being played by the Bharatiya Janata Party on social media.
The renaming of the scheme is not just an inventive effort to pair the PM’s image with that of his party, and to laud his leadership.
It is part of the BJP and the Narendra Modi government’s sustained endeavour to project the PM as the ‘messiah of the poor’ in the next 24 months leading up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
According to BJP strategists, PMJAY and the PM Ujjwala Yojana will form the nucleus of the Modi government’s re-election campaign.
To further build the Modi brand as pro-poor, pro-farmer and pro-worker, most central government schemes, including older schemes, now have the prefix ‘pradhan mantri’, or prime minister.
Among these, Ujjwala and Jan Aushadhi schemes are two with the potential to touch the lives of the poor and accrue to large sections immediate and palpable gains. The BJP-run governments and party cadre have been asked to popularise these two schemes.
By September, BJP chief Amit Shah will travel across the length and breadth of India, visiting each of the states and UnionTerritories to strengthen party organisation and also implore the party cadre to take the Modi’s government’s pro-poor message to the people and popularise its schemes, particularly Ujjwala and Jan Aushadhi.
The Ujjwala scheme aims at providing cooking gas connections to the poor at subsidised rates, while the Jan Aushadhi scheme has the objective to make 700 drugs accessible at affordable prices.
Shah and Modi have publicly acknowledged the contribution of the Ujjwala scheme in the BJP’s emphatic victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.
In February, at a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party, Union minister and senior party leader M Venkaiah Naidu asked the party’s members of Parliament to project Modi as the ‘messiah of the poor’.
In April, at a meeting with the BJP’s state chief ministers, Modi and Shah asked party CMs to take steps for effective implementation of central government schemes.
"The objective is obvious. In 2019, the party doesn’t want a repeat of 2004 when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government lost for its failure to project its pro-poor work," a BJP general secretary said.
Crucial to this is the Centre taking ownership of its schemes and ensuring it’s the PM who gets the credit for these schemes, and not state governments or CMs as was the case with some of the United Progressive Alliance government schemes.
For example, the PMJAY is being aggressively marketed by the BJP on social media as ‘PM ki jai (hail the PM)’. The scheme has failed to deliver over the years. But Modi is keen to push for its success. In his recent public rallies, the PM has time and again brought up his promise to provide affordable drugs to the people.
A close aide to Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Ananth Kumar said the government has asked all CMs to inaugurate more and more stores with the new brand name, PMJAY. Old stores that have merely ‘Jan Aushadhi Stores’ painted on them are now being re-branded as PMJAY.
Currently, the number of Jan Aushadhi stores is a little more than 1,000, way below the target of 3,000 stores which the government wanted to achieve by March 31. Even the number of drugs found in these stores narrates a sad story. Only around 200 drugs are available at most stores.
Efforts to build ‘Modi the messiah’ brand is evident among the BJP-ruled state governments and Union ministries.
The food ministry has directed all state governments to prominently display the Centre’s contribution to subsidised grains in front of ration shops to make consumers understand that more than 90 per cent of the total expenditure of their monthly quota of food is being borne by the Modi government.
This is also meant to discourage state governments from taking credit for the National Food Security Act.
In the consumer affairs department, directions on stopping wastage of food and also checking charging of dual maximum retail price was done in the name of the PM and after Modi raised the issue in one of his radio broadcasts.
In agriculture, big schemes such as soil health cards, eNaM, an irrigation programme, and the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana are being directly monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office on a regular basis to ensure there are no slippages.
There is a long list of schemes with the prefix ‘PM’, including several relaunched National Democratic Alliance-1 and UPA-1 and -2 era schemes: PM Jan Dhan Yojana, PM Awas Yojana, PM Ujjwala Yojana, PM Jan Aushadhi Yojana, PM Krishi Sinchayi Yojana, PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana, PM Mudra Yojana, PM Suraksha Bima Yojana, PM Swasthya Surakhsha Yojana, PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, PM Gram Sadak Yojana and the PM Fasal Bima Yojana, among others.
IMAGE: PM Narendra Modi distributes free LPG connections to beneficiaries under 'Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana'. Photograph: PIB India