Burden of promises: Everything you need to know on welfare schemes in poll-bound states

Newslaundry looked at the party manifestos in the five election states.

WrittenBy:Nikita Singh
Illustration of a politician holding a placard saying 'promises'.

Free laptops, scooty, gas cylinders and education, and loan waivers – the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram ushered in a barrage of ‘freebies’, with the most on offer in Chhattisgarh, MP and Telangana.     

In Chhattisgarh, while the Congress’s loan waiver was the heavyweight, the BJP’s big promise was MSP for paddy and scholarships for the children of small farmers. But the Bhupesh Baghel government outshined both – with a higher rate for paddy procurement, and promise of “free education from KG to PG” – referring to kindergarten and post-graduation.   

The manifestos, however, did not mention quality of education or educational infrastructure.  

In Telangana, offers ranged from free milk yielding cows to laptops for students, Rs 5 lakh financial aid for housing, and four free LPG cylinders annually.     

In Rajasthan, the Gehlot government said, if re-elected, it would shell out over Rs 5,000 crore on free gadgets for women.   

In Madhya Pradesh, where the outpouring of freebies began months in advance, the Chouhan government seems ready to shell out over Rs 56,000 crore on farm schemes from the state coffers, if re-elected.  

Notably, Madhya Pradesh’s total debt stood at Rs 3,31,000 crore in September this year – with the government taking more than Rs 9,000 crore debt since April this year.

Among the freebies, the BJP’s guarantees for Ram Mandir tours stood out.  The party vowed a free trip to Ayodhya in both Chhattisgarh and Telangana manifestos – with the latter also including a free trip to Kashi or Varanasi. The BJP’s poll pivots in Telangana also included renaming Hyderabad to Bhagyalakshmi and implementation of the Uniform Civil Code. 

Chhattisgarh: Over Rs 47,000 cr freebies for farmers by Cong, over Rs 38,000 cr by BJP 

One of the poll pivots of Chhattisgarh Congress is a one-time farm loan waiver, which cost the state exchequer around Rs 9,000 crore in 2018 with 19 lakh registered farmers in the state. The number of such farmers has now increased to more than 25 lakh. Assuming Rs 47,000 is waived for each farmer, the total waive off will be over Rs 11,000 crore.

The party has also promised a grant of Rs 10,000 per year to landless farm labourers under the Rajiv Gandhi Bhoomiheen Krishi Mazdoor Nyaya Yojana. The scheme had supported more than 12 lakh farmer families in 2022. Even with the count of the beneficiaries remaining static, the scheme will cost Rs 1,200 crore.  

The Chhattisgarh Congress revised the price of tendu leaves, used to wrap tobacco, to Rs 6,000 for each bundle from Rs 2,500 earlier. Home to about 13.7 lakh tendupatta collector families, the state aims to procure 13.7 lakh bags of tendu leaves this year. Thus, if the Congress comes to power again, its total tendu leaves procurement in a year would cost Rs 822 crore – an uptick of Rs 479.5 crore.  

Meanwhile, the promised Rs 4,000 bonus for every tendu collector family would amount to about Rs 54.8 crore. 

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel also promised Rs 3,200 per quintal minimum support price for paddy, increased from Rs 2,640 per quintal. The state acquires paddy from 26 lakh farmers, and a similar promise in 2018 had purportedly propelled Congress to win the state after a gap of 15 years. 

The government procured 107.52 lakh tonnes of paddy in the previous season. At the vowed rate, the procurement will cost the public exchequer over Rs 34,000 crore – about Rs 4,000 crore more than the previous season.    

The party also promised to purchase 20 quintal paddy per acre, up from 15 quintal per acre. 

The CM announced in his rallies that his government would increase the MSP for small forest products by Rs 10 per kilo. In the Covid year of 2020, the state government was in news for procuring 46,857 metric tonnes of minor forest products worth a whopping Rs 106.53 crore.

What about the BJP?

Competing tooth and nail, the BJP too had a slew of poll promises for farmers – the major one being its guarantee of Rs 3,100 MSP for paddy. The party said it will purchase 21 quintal paddy per acre, a notch up compared to the Congress. The BJP also vowed to procure tendu leaves for Rs 5,500 per bag, besides an annual bonus of Rs 4,500. These would cost the public exchequer over Rs 34,000 crore.   

The BJP promised to disburse the outstanding paddy bonus for the last two years of former chief minister Raman Singh’s tenure. Notably, Singh’s government had shelled out Rs 2,100 crore to give paddy bonus to over 13 lakh farmers in 2016. If the same amount is disbursed for a period of two years, the cost would be Rs 4,200 crore.   

The party leadership also assured scholarships of up to Rs 2 lakh for children of “small farmers” studying in government schools and colleges, setting up of an agriculture university, and 100 residential schools for adivasi students. 

There were more poll promises for Chhattisgarh’s farmers, the biggest vote bank in the state: Subsidies for animal husbandry and fencing, Rs 5 lakh life insurance and Rs 5 lakh accident insurance for farmers and farm labourers, and 50 percent subsidy for operating honey bee colonies. 

What were the other heavyweight poll promises in Chhattisgarh?

Besides the loan waivers for farmers, the Bhupesh Baghel government vowed to write-off taxes and penalties worth Rs 726 crore for more than 6,600 vehicle owners (motor vehicle tax and interest taken from 2018). The incumbent CM also promised to waive off loans of SHGs. Till November last year, Rs 1,249.59 crore loan from the Chhattisgarh government was outstanding with the SHGs, as per data on the DAY-NRLM portal.  

The Congress has promised free electricity up to 200 units per household at a cost of over Rs 560 crore, with Rs 5 per unit average cost for over 56 lakh households in the state as per the 2011 census.  Another guarantee is housing for 17.5 lakh poor families – set to cost the exchequer Rs 21,000 crore, as per the Baghel government’s Rs 1.20 lakh per house allocation under its Mukhyamantri Gramin Awas scheme.   

Ironically, the centre had withdrawn its housing scheme Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana from Chhattisgarh in 2021 after the state government reportedly failed to contribute its share of money for the scheme.

The other big guarantees of the Congress are free education from KG to PG, free coaching for engineering and medical, 50 percent subsidy for industry loans for young people, and free medical treatment up to Rs 10 lakh for BPL families. 

For women, who make up 1.02 crore of the electorate in Chhattisgarh, the Congress guaranteed an annual aid of Rs 15,000 under the Griha Lakshmi Yojana. Even if one eligible woman is in each of the 67.9 lakh ration card holding households of the state, it will cost over Rs 10,000 crore. The Congress also assured Rs 500 LPG subsidy. If the benefit is provided to the 34,40,381 households registered under the PM Ujjwala Yojna, the cost for the subsidy will be Rs 172 crore.   

The BJP too eyed the women votes,  pledging Rs 12,000 annually for the state’s married women. If the scheme is availed by one woman in each of the 67.9 lakh marginalised households in the state, the promise will cost Rs 8,000 crore. The party has also offered a grant of Rs 21,000 for new mothers. 

Like the Congress, the BJP promised to allocate funds for housing for 18 lakh families, Rs 10,000 annual aid to landless labourers, and LPG gas cylinders at Rs 500 – cumulatively costing about Rs 23,000 crore. 

Apart from these, the BJP has promised Rs 10 lakh health insurance, 50 percent loan subsidy, up to 50 percent scholarships for professional courses, sports scholarships,  Rs 2,000 annual aid for street vendors and travel allowance for students.

Rajasthan: Gehlot to spend over Rs 15,000 cr on ‘freebies’ for women, BJP’s Rs 9,000 cr rural guarantees  

In Rajasthan, the incumbent government is betting on ‘welfarism’. It promised free laptops and tablets for students enrolled in government colleges. The government said it will distribute 27,300 laptops each year, bringing its estimated cost to about Rs 68 crore.   

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also promised smartphones with complimentary internet service for three years to 1 crore women, if re-elected, which would cost the exchequer at least Rs 5,000 crore even if the government distributed the cheapest available smartphones.    

Gehlot promised Rs 10,000 annual aid to the woman head of families under the Griha Lakshmi Guarantee – expected to benefit over 1 crore women, amounting to over Rs 10,000 crore. 

Another poll plank of Gehlot was gas cylinder at Rs 400 for 1.05 crore families, a discount of Rs 100 per cylinder to the earlier rate for BPL families. This would cost the government treasury Rs 105 crore.   

Among his other poll promises were the procurement of cow dung at Rs 2 per kilo, emergency insurance coverage up to Rs 15 lakh, interest-free loan of up to Rs 5 lakh to small traders and up to Rs 2 lakh for farmers, doubled health insurance coverage from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 50 lakh annually, and reinstatement of its old pension scheme.

The BJP – which is vying to secure a victory and keep up Rajasthan’s 25-year-old tradition of voting out the incumbent government – promised a free Scooty to “brilliant” students on graduating Class 12, following in the footsteps of the Madhya Pradesh BJP government. If the BJP also provides free scooters to over 5,000 women like in MP, the scheme will cost the state’s treasury Rs 38 crore. The party also vowed financial aid for female students between Rs 6,000 and Rs 1 lakh in different classes till Class 12.  

Adapting from the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, the Rajasthan BJP promised Rs 1,200 to school students for school bags and uniforms – expected to benefit about 1 crore students enrolled with government schools in the state – costing about Rs 1200 crore. 

Another guarantee was Rs 12,000 annual aid to farmers that would cost the exchequer over Rs 8,640 crore if 72 lakh farmers registered with the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi in FY23 are benefited. It also promised Rs 3,000 pension to farmers under the scheme.  

The saffron party also assured an increase in the MSP for wheat from Rs 2,275 at present to Rs 2,700 per quintal. Expected to procure 42.8 lakh MT of wheat in 2024, the revised rate will translate to Rs 1,155 crore.  

The BJP has assured Anganwadi workers an allowance  of Rs 13,000 per month. With 61,593 Anganwadi workers in the state, the allowance would cumulatively cost over Rs 80 crore. The party also promised financial aid of Rs 7,500 to mini anganwadi workers, Rs 6,500 to secondary staff, and Rs 6,000 per month for ASHA workers, respectively. 

LPG gas cylinders at Rs 450 per unit also featured in the BJP’s poll promises. It vowed to hike pensions, and provide Rs 3,000 additional aid to pregnant women and new mothers. 

The other big promises were “doubling individual income” in the next five years, government job vacancies, interest-free loans, new seats in MBBS courses, and subsidised seeds.

Telangana: A contest of schemes for women, from scooters to laptops

Keen to make a mark in the southern state, the BJP has promised free crop insurance, free milk yielding cows, free laptops for college-going women, four free gas cylinders every year, and free annual health check-ups for the economically backward.  

Nearly 70.54 lakh farmers are enrolled with the Telangana government’s flagship scheme for farmers, called Rythu Bandhu. To provide a milking cow to each of these farmers, the state coffers will need to shell out at least Rs 28,200 crore. Meanwhile, if the state was set to fulfil the promise of free laptops for even 20,000 women students in the state, it would cost Rs 50 crore. 

The four free cylinders for 1.05 crore households would make a Rs 2,100 crore-worth dent in the state treasury. If the scheme is carried on for all five years, the amount would be Rs 10,500 crore. 

The BJP manifesto also assured an MSP of Rs 3,100 per quintal for paddy procurement. Considering the state purchased 64.5 lakh tonnes of paddy in FY23, with the revised rate, it would cost over Rs 19,000 crore against Rs 13,264 crore last year.  Besides the MSP, the party has also promised to provide Rs 2,500 as assistance to small and marginal farmers. 

Meanwhile, the Congress too has announced a barrage of welfare schemes. Looking to break the incumbent Chief Minister K Chandrashekahar Rao’s two-time winning streak, the party’s poll promises spanned gender-based sops such as free electric scooters to women, to financial aid for housing, scholarships and even religious institutions. The manifesto mentioned targeted financial aid for SC/STs, minorities and small business owners such as barbers.  

Besides the e-bikes, the Congress freebies for the state’s women include 10 gms of gold and financial aid between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.6 lakh to women getting married, monthly financial aid of Rs 2,500 to BPL women and free travel in state TSRTC buses. The state has 1.63 crore women in its electoral rolls for the assembly polls, and even if a dismal 20,000 women availed these benefits – it would cost the public exchequer over Rs 400 crore.  

The Congress party has promised financial aid of Rs 15,000 to farmers and Rs 12,000 to farm labourers, which is likely to amount to over Rs 10,500 crore for 70.54 lakh registered farmers in Telangana. To top it, the Congress if voted to power will also disburse Rs 500 bonus per quintal for paddy. 

Its schemes for housing – from 200 units of free electricity to financial aid of Rs 5-6 lakh to build a house – would cost the state coffer over Rs 5,500 crore if every household in the state gets free electricity and at least 1 lakh people are granted housing aid. 

Besides this, the Congress’s other major poll promises include Rs 5 lakh financial aid to college students, honorary pension of Rs 25,000 to families of Telangana movement fighters, Rs 4,000 monthly unemployment allowance, Rs 12 lakh to SC/ST families over five years, Rs 10,000 aid to priests of all religion and hike in anganwadi workers’ salary –  all cumulatively amounting to at least over Rs 14,000 crore. 

Notably, it mentioned financial aid for farmers affected by KCR’s Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project and Rs 12,000 aid to Hindu temples for “incense and lamps”.

What about the governing BRS?

KCR-led BRS already runs several welfare schemes in the state, most prominent being the Kalyana Lakshmi scheme to provide financial assistance for weddings, old age and disabled pension, and the Rythu Bandhu scheme for farmers.

The government allocated Rs 12,000 crore for its Aasara pension scheme, Rs 3,210 under Kalyana Lakshmi, and earmarked Rs 15,075 crore for Rythu Bandhu. Under these welfare schemes, the BRS further incorporates community-wise allocations, including those from the backward community to the SC/ST.   

The BRS has announced that on returning to power it will further increase the allocations under these schemes, besides providing life insurance of up to Rs 5 lakh, Rs 15 lakh health insurance cover, and gas cylinders at Rs 400 for the Below Poverty Line families.   

Another welfare scheme that has created furore among the public is KCR’s brainchild, the Gruhalakshmi scheme. It offers Rs 3 lakh in installations to the woman head of BPL families to construct houses, targeting to build at least 3,000 houses in each constituency in the first phase, at a cost of  Rs 7,350 crore.   

Madhya Pradesh: BJP to give both scooters and laptops, Congress loan waiver pivot

In Madhya Pradesh, where Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is fighting anti-incumbency, the BJP promised both free scooters and laptops for students. 

The BJP manifesto said, on being re-elected, the government will grant scooters to “brilliant” female students after Class 12, while giving Rs 25,000 to “up to 3 lakh students” for laptops — amounting to at least Rs 800 crore. 

Chouhan had distributed scooters to women earlier as well. Months ahead of the polls, the Shivraj government already began disbursing Rs 1,000 per month in the bank accounts of 1.3 crore women under the Ladli Behna Yojna. The financial aid was revised to Rs 1,250 in October – weeks before the elections.     

For farmers, the BJP has promised Rs 12,000 financial aid through the PM Kisan Samman scheme, under which over 85 lakh farmers are registered in Madhya Pradesh. The aid is likely to cost the state over Rs 10,200 crore.

Among its other guarantees were MSP for wheat at Rs 2,700 per quintal and paddy at Rs 3,100 a quintal, respectively. Considering the state procured 70 lakh metric tonnes of wheat and 121 lakh MT of paddy, the procurement will be worth Rs 9,180 crore and Rs 37,500 crore, respectively.    

The BJP also promised Rs 40,000 one-time aid for farmers raising country cows, along with Rs 900 monthly aid, Rs 1,000 for per acre harvest of millet and Rs 1,000 hike in tendu leaves rate from Rs 3,000 earlier.     

It also promised to hike allocations under most of its welfare schemes, pensions and financial aid. Notably, it announced a Rs 20,000 pension for journalists over 60-year age, Rs 8,000 for landless constables and doubling of PESA mobilisers’ wage to Rs 8,000. 

What did the Congress promise? 

Like Chhattisgarh, the Congress party’s poll pivot in Madhya Pradesh was the loan waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh for every farmer. During the 15-month Congress term under former CM Kamal Nath, the party had launched a scheme to waive off farm loans worth Rs 50,000 crore in MP. 

This time, in addition to farm loan waiver, the party is also waiving off outstanding electricity bills – a cumulative Rs 4,015 crore for over 68 lakh households. 

It also promised an MSP of Rs 2,600 for wheat per quintal, and rice for Rs 2,500 per quintal, Rs 5 per litre bonus on milk, tendu leaves at Rs 4,000 every bundle, free education, free electricity up to 100 units, Rs 3,000 allowance for 24.7 lakh unemployed youth, and LPG cylinder at Rs 500 – all this cumulatively surpassing Rs  27,000 crore.  

The Congress has also promised Rs 1,500 financial aid to BPL women every month. Assuming it will reach the 1.25 crore women registered with the Ladli Behna Yojna, it would cost the government Rs 1,875 crore.    

Women comprise 2.67 crore voters in the state – 48 percent of the total 5.52 crore electorate in Madhya Pradesh.    

Mizoram: Regional parties’ focus on development; Cong, BJP on freebies 

The northeastern state saw the least “freebies”, with regional parties focusing on developmental and political issues. Amid the issue of Kuki-Zo migration from violence-hit Manipur, the governing Mizoram National Front has promised a “unification” of the Zo community, implementation of all clauses of the Mizo Peace Accord that ended insurgency in the state, and the protection of its borders.

Development of infrastructure, pension schemes and its flagship Socio-Economic Development Programme were the other significant mentions in the party’s manifesto.    

The ZPM’s manifesto laid out administrative and financial reforms, and focused on tourism, industry, and agriculture.  It also mentioned an additional monthly pension of Rs 1,000 for those of 70 years and above, beyond the existing Old Age Pension.

However, the BJP and the Congress – both vying to be kingmaker this election – competed over freebies.  The Congress promised free laptops to 12th pass students from BPL families. It assured that under its government, the cylinder will be priced at Rs 750,  and assistance of up to Rs 2 lakh will be provided for farmers and business owners. 

Its other promises included social security for physically and mentally challenged, increased pension, urban unemployment scheme, and health insurance cover of over Rs 15 lakh. 

Meanwhile, the BJP, which commands dismal influence in the state politics, went all out with its welfare promises. The party promised Rs 6,000 annual aid for fish farmers,  free Scootys for “meritorious” girls of Class 12, free education for all female students from KG to PG, and financial aid for female students between Rs 3,000 and Rs 1 lakh in different classes up till age 21.  

Among other freebies by the BJP – which won its first seat in Mizoram in the 2018 assembly polls – were  two free LPG cylinders under Ujjwala Yojana, free HPV vaccines, free mammogram screenings, and sanitary napkins at Re 1. 

With research inputs from Ishita Pradeep.


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