In preparations for the 2017 Assembly elections, the Samajwadi Party has decided to reach out to the “beneficiaries” of the state government’s welfare schemes in a bid to strike an emotional chord with the population that numbers “nearly one crore”.
Calling them “prospective voters who are also our sympathisers”, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has floated the idea of contacting these people through pre-recorded voice messages and letters highlighting the welfare schemes of his government. For this, the youth workers have been asked to fan out in rural areas and stay there for a fortnight.
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To test how deep the waters run, a sample exercise was conducted recently by the chief minister himself.
“We called up all the farmers who have received solar pumps on subsidy. Nearly 95 per cent said they were satisfied with our schemes. Some of our schemes are so good that people have forgotten other similar schemes run by the central government,” Akhilesh had said during the state parliamentary board meeting held on Saturday.
The CM believes that the only thing his government, and the party running it, needs is “more publicity”.
“If we tap the beneficiaries of our welfare schemes, we have already won the battle. They are our sympathisers but we need to reach out to them. We are just lagging behind in publicity. We need to gear up on this front,” Akhilesh had said, succinctly reminding the party workers that these beneficiaries “can tilt the scale in SP’s favour”.
An analysis of the parties’ vote share in the 2012 Assembly elections adds some value to Akhilesh’s calculations.
While the SP had polled 2.20 crore votes (29.13 per cent), it did not outdo its next rival BSP, which polled 1.96 crore votes (25.91 per cent) by a huge margin. The BJP got 1.13 crore votes (15 per cent) and the Congress nearly 88 lakh (11.65 per cent vote share). In the words of Akhilesh, “tapping the one crore beneficiaries (of welfare schemes)” can swing the 2017 elections in the SP’s favour.
As part of the exercise, the party is compiling departmental data of the state government’s welfare schemes to prepare a list of beneficiaries. The major chunk of nearly 45 lakh come from the Samajwadi Pension Scheme which has been implemented to the village level. Another seven lakh beneficiaries of loan waiver scheme are also being tapped. Among other schemes include Kamdhenu Dairy Scheme, solar lights, Lohia Gramin Awas Yojna, farmer crop insurance, distribution of cycles to labourers and users of 108 ambulance services etc. The expected figure of beneficiaries ranges between 75 lakh to one crore.
During the Saturday’s meeting, which was chaired by Akhilesh, the detailed plan was chalked out. “It has been decided that the besides the workers staying in the villages, youth workers will take out a two-week-long cycle rally beginning August 1. In almost every village, one can easily find people who have have been a beneficiary of some government scheme or the other. The workers will interact with them, take their feedback and highlight the development work done by the Akhilesh government,” Rajendra Choudhary, party’s state spokesperson, said.