Schemes of victory

Karnataka elections have brought to attention the failing magic of successful social policies in securing an electoral victory

Karnataka is one among the many states that change their Chief Minister after every five years – and this has been a consistent trend for at least 30 years now. After a long drawn tussle over who will form the next government, BS Yeddyurappa finally took oath as the new Chief Minister. His cabinet will be named only after he has proven his strength in a floor test at the Assembly. For that, we have to wait and see how the coming days pan out.
During the election campaign, it was quite clear that the Congress party, under the aegis of Siddaramaiah, was relying on its welfare schemes such as Anna Bhagya and Krishi Bhagya to win the people's support. However, they did not yield the results that were expected. Since Siddaramaiah came to power, he worked throughout his tenure to consolidate AHINDA (local acronym for minorities, backward classes, and Dalits) votes and these welfare schemes were an important tool to win the confidence of the different marginalised communities. It has been said, over time, that his work for AHINDA stood between Congress and BJP.
Among the list of these welfare schemes, Anna Bhagya was the most popular and it has benefitted at least 40 million people across the state. Since the announcement of the scheme, the state government has allocated Rs 15,380.70 crore, according to Pratibimba, a Karnataka government dashboard. Under the scheme, the government was providing free grain of up to 35 kg to its various beneficiaries.
Similarly, the state government initiated the Krishi Bhagya scheme for agriculture. The government claimed that it was improving rain-fed agriculture through this scheme by offering financial support to the farmers for creating farm ponds to collect water run-offs. The government was also helping farmers in procuring polythene to restrict the percolation while simultaneously setting-up diesel pump sets to lift the water.
While the Congress government was relying on these welfare schemes to garner its votes, it has somehow managed to come a distant second. So, the question is whether welfare schemes are enough for political parties to maintain their popularity among the population. Down To Earth asked this question to experts.
Narendra Pani from National Institute of Advanced Studies says that a cynical viewpoint emerges out of the election results, which suggests that schemes aimed at the very poor do not really have a large enough pool of beneficiaries to ensure their electoral victory.
In the last few years, several governments, which were relying on social welfare schemes for victory, were defeated. Ashok Gehlot's government in Rajasthan is one such example.
"There are two trends emerging from these results. As a society develops, the number of people dependent on such schemes tends to decline, and the importance of the scheme gets reduced. Secondly, whether one likes it or not, it is becoming an extremely insensitive society," says Pani
Ashish Ranjan, a senior researcher at Trivedi Center for Political Data, Ashoka University, Haryana says that there is a simple logic to understand this phenomenon. Congress has managed to secure around 38 per cent of votes so far. In 2013, the party got only 36.5 per cent of the votes, which is an increase of 1.5 per cent of the total votes. The beneficiaries of the social welfare schemes have definitely backed the government, affirms Ranjan. However, the Congress party failed to get the extra 3 or 4 per cent of the vote share that was needed to convert them into seats, he says. Ranjan has travelled extensively during the election campaign to understand the public mood.
While the Bharatiya Janta Party has emerged as the single-largest party with 104 seats, it stopped far short of the 150 seats it was hoping to secure. This is despite the fact that Prime Minister himself was actively engaged in the campaign. DOWN TO EARTH
(The author is Senior Reporter, Down to Earth. The views expressed are strictly personal)

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