Freebies is new poll mantra in Kerala as LDF, UDF gear up for elections

The ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is making all-out effort to cash in on the promises made in the budget by scaling up its propaganda machinery to take the announcements directly to the people.

The UDF on the other hand is gearing up to give a strong reply through its election manifesto which is currently under preparation. Going by the indications, the two fronts are likely to focus more on welfare measures and development to elicit the support of voters.

The Pinarayi government’s last budget was a mixed bag of people-friendly ingredients and aspirations for doing a repeat in Assembly polls. With just four months left in office, there are no worries about the huge liabilities that the implementation of popular schemes would incur. So there's no dearth of promises.

The finance minister's usual imaginary world is also in full display. But on the ground, the CPM has directed its MLAs to do whatever it takes to convert the promises made in the budget into votes. A huge propaganda highlighting the budget promises has already been launched in the cyber world. Though whichever government comes to power after elections it is sure to present a fresh budget, therefore the LDF’s idea is to use the last budget as an election manifesto to attract voters. More announcements are expected when the ministers reply to budget discussions.

The social welfare pensions have been raised to Rs 1600 with an increase of Rs 100. The Pinarayi Vijayan government would be able to highlight this achievement. During the UDF tenure social welfare pension was raised from  Rs 600 to Rs 1000.

At a time when Covid pandemic has adversely affected the income of people across the world, the state government by announcing pay revision has reiterated its commitment to the welfare of employees. The budget also reflects the eagerness of the government to retain and strengthen the support of its existing base. The government also took extra care not to annoy any section of society in the budget.

The Left is also keeping an eye on tapping the capabilities of women professionals and use of scientific sector in a big way through the announcements related to these sectors made in the budget. After Kerala Congress (M)’s entry into the LDF, the procurement price of rubber has been increased by Rs 20. The Rs 170 announced in budget is likely to be increased further. The announcement of "laptops for all households" has sent out a message that Tamil Nadu model of promises has now come to Kerala as well.

On the other hand the UDF through its draft manifesto has also made it clear that the Congress-led front's thrust from now on would be on government freebies and welfare measures. While the two fronts are competing with each other in announcing freebies and social welfare measures, the question that gains relevance is – where will the money come from for implementing these popular schemes?

Quite understandably then, after presenting the 12th budget finance minister Thomas Isaac might have thought about the huge debt that the state is reeling under and how he would tackle it should the LDF come back to power and he retains the finance portfolio.

But for the moment, the minister and his front believes that “free ration kits” would continue to bring in votes into their kitty in a big way.


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