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Did Lakshmir Bhandar Help Mamata Win?

By Ishita Ayan Dutt
Last updated on: June 06, 2024 12:28 IST
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The welfare schemes of the government, particularly Lakshmir Bhandar, have had a major impact on the electoral outcome.

IMAGE: Trinanool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee shows a victory sign after casting her vote in Kolkata, June 1, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

It was just before the fourth phase of the general election in West Bengal.

Two men at a tea stall in Krishnanagar town in the Nadia district were engrossed in a discussion around the possible poll outcome in the constituency where the Trinamool Congress' Mahua Moitra was pitted against the Bharatiya Janata Party's Amrita Roy, also known as 'Rani Ma'.

The men were sure to vote for the saffron party. But the women at home?

"They are saying they will vote for the BJP. We are not so sure, though. It could very well go in favour of 'Lakshmir Bhandar'," they said.

Moitra won the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha constituency by a margin of 56,705 votes. While myriad reasons decide the outcome in a seat, the plethora of welfare schemes of the Mamata Banerjee government, especially the monthly financial assistance for women, Lakshmir Bhandar, has played its part in West Bengal's poll outcome.

Of the 42 seats in West Bengal, the TMC has won 29 seats and the BJP 12; the Congress has won one seat.

Mamata's party is up seven from the last general election of 2019; its principal challenger, BJP, is down by six seats.

Lakshmir Bhandar

Political analysts say that the welfare schemes of the government, particularly Lakshmir Bhandar, have had a major impact on the electoral outcome.

The scheme was implemented after the assembly election of 2021 for women between the ages of 25 years and 60 years. So in a way, its impact on the electorate was felt for the first time.

According to Election Commission data, the average male turnout in the first six phases in West Bengal was 77.96 per cent while female turnout was 81.19 per cent.

Social and economic impact

Lakshmir Bhandar has had a "tremendous" response among the women of the state, according to Amit Mitra, principal chief advisor to the West Bengal chief minister.

"There are two complementary sides to the unique programme. It has brought about the social empowerment of women. At the same time, much of the outgo comes back into the market, stimulating demand," Mitra pointed out.

According to the West Bengal Budget speech for 2024-2025, the scheme's expenditure in 2023-2024 was at Rs 10,101.87 crore (Rs 101.0187 Billion).

An additional annual allocation of Rs 12,000 crore (Rs 120 billion) has been provided as the financial assistance under the scheme has been enhanced to Rs 1,200 per month for women belonging to Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities and to Rs 1,000 per month for women belonging to other categories.

About 21.1 million women have registered under the scheme.

There are other schemes that feed into overall women-centric measures.

These include the acclaimed Kanyashree (financial assistance to girls for pursuing higher education), facilitating huge resource mobilisation for self-help groups, and student credit cards for all (offering a maximum loan of Rs 10 lakh at a subsidised interest rate of 4 per cent per annum), Mitra said.

Job creation

West Bengal has also created jobs through multiple channels, Mitra said.

"There were 49 micro, small and medium enterprise clusters when Mamata's government came to power. Today, there are more than 550 clusters across the state which have become major providers of jobs."

There are a growing number of gig workers in the massive fulfilment centres of e-commerce companies and startups in the state.

Political narrative

With its inclusive politics, Mamata anyway had a stranglehold on the Muslim vote bank. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act helped it consolidate further, analysts said.

Political analyst Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury added that the 'kendrer banchona' (neglect by the Centre) narrative may have struck a chord with the electorate.

"Bengal has probably felt deprived since 1911 when the British moved the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. The Left Front throughout its rule has driven home the 'kendrer banchona' point.

"Mamata has also convincingly floated the theory with the issue of withholding of MGNREGA funds," he said.

Bengal BJP

The saffron party's failings in Bengal have been a boost to the TMC. In 2019 when the BJP had got 18 seats, it was under the leadership of Dilip Ghosh, who had more organisation and mobilisation capacity, Basu Ray Chaudhury said.

Also, the acceptability of turncoat politicians in Bengal's politics is low.

Bengal BJP Chief Spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya pointed out that no organisation was foolproof.

"We will introspect and see what steps are to be taken." While the poll results were below expectations, he said the BJP had won 12 seats in West Bengal.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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Ishita Ayan Dutt
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