BJP comes up with ‘right to food’ slogan for Karnataka poll

via Timesofindia.com published on April 25, 2008

BANGALORE: Hoping to capitalise on popular disaffection because of food shortage and spiralling prices across the country, the BJP has come up with a new slogan – right to food – promising to provide foodgrains at subsidised rates to the poor in poll-bound Karnataka.

Borrowing heavily from the concept of `antyodaya’ initiated by the late Deendayal Upadhyaya, the former president and ideologue of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, and executed later by the Vajpayee government at the Centre, the BJP has sought to redefine poverty by carving out two new categories of “extremely poor” and “poor” families with annual income of Rs 30,000 and between Rs 30,000 and Rs 60,000 respectively, as against the Centre’s classification of ‘below poverty line” (BPL) families with annual income upto Rs 11,800.

Rice at Rs 2 per kg and foodgrain at subsidised prices, community health insurance to cover surgeries, accidents and other hospitalised services, assistance upto Rs 1,000 to women for each hospitalised delivery, waiver of housing loans under Ashraya and Indira Awas Yojana and raising of future loan amounts to Rs 40,000, Rs 400 monthly pension to helpless divorced women and widows with children as also physically handicapped are among the sops offered to the extremely poor families in BJP’s manifesto for the assembly polls.

Releasing the 48-page manifesto, chalked out with the goal of securing a clear majority for the party to make Karnataka a fully developed state, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley, however, remained non-committal on whether the party would adopt the redefined poverty classifications in next year’s parliamentary polls. “We want to set the agenda for a national debate through the points and programmes suggested in Karnataka’s manifesto. We will address these questions during the parliamentary polls,” he said.

Unlike the 25 kg rice at Rs 2 per kg by the Congress in its mini-manifesto, the BJP manifesto is silent on the quantum of rice. “It will be decided by our government soon after elections,” Mr Jaitley said pointing out that it would ideally like to follow the norm of 28 kg rice per family under the Antyodaya scheme. Instead of a colour TV for each BPL family promised by the Congress, the BJP promises to establish a cyber cafe in every village by establishing a community hall, colour TV and an internet-enabled computer.

With the Congress pre-empting it by promising crop loans to farmers from nationalised banks and RRBs at 3% interest, the BJP has also made the same offer and extended it to weavers, fishermen and artisans. Creation of a Rs 500-crore revolving fund for agricultural support price, direct payment of production assistance of Rs 2 a litre of milk to milk producers, support price for sericulture and removal of restrictions on conversion and sale of agricultural lands besides free power to farmers for IP sets upto 10 HP are the other promises from BJP to the farmers.

If the Congress offered to give a monthly dole of Rs 1,000 to unemployed youth by linking it to skill development programmes, the BJP has sought to enhance the limit to Rs 1,500 besides promising to set up a state youth council for formulating a youth policy. Free education to girls upto degree class, doubling of seed capital to women self-help groups (SHGs) from Rs 5,000 and loans at 6% interest besides mobile telephones to SHGs, mahila mandals and youth clubs are the offers to women.

On the infrastructure front, the BJP manifesto commits to doubling power generation to 10,000 mw over the next five years, improve road connectivity all over the state and implement plans for bringing about a tourism revolution without actually spelling out details.

Interestingly, the BJP manifesto talks of a new vision for making Bangalore the No 1 city in India and an internationally prominent metropolis by adopting a new urban planning model, upgrading infrastructure, social facilities and creating better environment for good quality of life. The strategy for re-inventing Bangalore comprises of having a mayor directly elected by people for a fixed tenure of 5 years and a commissioner selected from among professionals every three years, a metropolitan transport authority to address the growing transport and traffic problems of the city and reviewing the CVS tax scheme.

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