2013 verdict: Populism is popular

Rohit Joshi and Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group/Delhi

Congress has lost 4-1 in just concluded assembly polls but a closer look at the verdict shows why it should not lose heart and yet stay in contention for 2014. But only if it can better opposition at offering sops.

This is because the clear winner in this electoral season is populism. This also shaves off some shine from Modi factor in 2013 verdict.

The sterling performance of debutant Aam Admi Party (AAP) has also come on the back of its rather difficult to implement but highly attractive welfare measures for the common man.

Congress, which rode back to power on its rural job guarantee scheme and the mammoth loan waiver scheme for farmers, has put on offer an array of populist schemes to retain power in 2014.

A detailed study of welfare schemes of four states-Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi-throws some interesting pointers for political strategists ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

First and foremost, states having maximum number of welfare schemes observed relatively higher voter turnout. This turnout though in case of Rajasthan, which recorded the second highest turnout, did not turn out to be positive for Congress. Chhattisgarh witnessed the record voter turnout of 77.3 per cent. While in case of Rajasthan voter turnout stood at 75.2 per cent, it stood at 72.7 per cent in case of Madhya Pradesh. Further, in Delhi the voter turnout stood at 65.7 per cent.

Second, and perhaps the most critical, is the common thread of welfare schemes being targeted primarily at women, working well. More the schemes better the turnout of women.

Female turnout has increased in 2013 assembly polls when compared to 2008 polls. In Rajasthan female turnout jumped by 10 per cent while as in Chhattisgarh it grew by 8 per cent. In MP women voters grew by 4.2 per cent and in Delhi it grew by 8 per cent.

Third but strategic outcome of the verdict is that longer the tenure of the welfare scheme better is the possibility to convert it into positive votes.

For instance, in Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan initiated schemes like Ladli Laxmi Yojana (launched in 2006 to provide financial assistance to the girl child), Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana (launched in 2006 to support poor families in getting their daughters married), Beti Bachao Abhiyan (launched in 2011 to arrest skewed sex ratio), Mukhyamantri Annapurna Yojana (launched in 2013 to provide foodgrain at subsidised rates), Mukyamantri Teerth Darshan Yojana (launched in 2012 to take senior citizens on pilgrimage) et al.

Similarly, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh also started welfare schemes like Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana (launched during 2005-06 to support poor families in getting their daughters married), Mukhyamantri Cycle Vitaran Yojana (launched in 2004-05 to distribute bicycles to school girls), Mukyamantri Teerth Darshan Yojana (launched in 2013 to take senior citizens on pilgrimage) et al.

This factor perhaps explains the lackluster performance of Congress in Rajasthan. In Rajasthan, it was observed that most of the schemes were launched in the later part of Ashok Gehlot’s tenure.

Rajasthan government promoted schemes like Shishu Suraksha Yojana (launched in 2011 to bring down maternal and child mortality rate), Varisht Nagrik Teerth Yatra Yojana (launched in 2013 take senior citizens on pilgrimage), Rajiv Gandhi Vidhyarthi Digital Yojana (launched in 2012-13 to distribute free laptops to children), Mukhyamantri Nishulk Dawa Yojana (launched in 2011 to provide free drugs) et al.

Delhi’s loss for Congress, attributable to a diverse set of factors, also resulted likely because of the party offering a rather slim pack of welfare schemes. It had merely two schemes on offer: Ladli Yojana (launched in 2008 to empower the girls by linking financial assistance with their education up to senior secondary level), Annshri Yojana (launched in 2012 for cheap food grain for BPL). It went to polls primarily on back of better infra record.

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