A historic win in the state of Karnataka by the Indian National Congress (INC) is seen as the point where the party started taking the fight right to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) camp.
In less than a year, the much anticipated national elections are going to take place. Coalitions and opinions are forming as much as they are being broken. It is no secret that Congress's handling of Karnataka in the months leading up to the national elections will be instrumental in determining who the winner is.
The government, having presented its first budget, has been criticized for not creating new jobs and burdening people with more debt, by the opposition.
The five guarantees have been widely regarded as the main reason for Congress's victory, apart from their brilliant ad campaign "40% sarkara" which stirred the public . While these guarantees have been dubbed as freebies by the opposition, they are expected to do a lot of good in the state, as was witnessed in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. But, of course, like everything else, they have their own flaws as well.
The Shakti scheme which took off on a popular note even made a man disguised as a woman to obtain free bus tickets and auto-rickshaw drivers to strike work and demand Rs. 10,000 for 'loss of business'. As per The Transport Department the government runs 23,000 buses and as per a report in The Hindustan Times, 4,000 new buses are to be added to the fleet which will generate about 13,000 jobs.
However, in the bigger picture, the free bus tickets are now criticized as the people have to bear with more overcrowding. According to The Economic Times, the number of daily commuters in Karnataka has risen to 1.1 crore. Thus, if we take this number and the new buses that will be added into account; one bus is required to carry 407 people daily on average, out of which 223 are women (55%).
A mammoth task for the government is not only to manage this sea of daily commuters but also to create and maintain enough infrastructure to serve the growing demand.
Anna Bhagya Scheme - The guarantee of 10 kg of rice (5 by Congress and 5 by the Centre) was a big one, and this guarantee has taken the biggest hit out of all the others since the Centre could not provide grain to the state citing Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) minimum buffer rules; thus, there is a shortage of 5 kg in the total amount of rice that is to be given. However, Congress decided to launch a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) on July 10 to counter it.
The reported compensation to be given is Rs. 34 per kg (Rs. 170 per month). But is it enough? As per CommodityOnline, the average price of rice is a little over Rs. 40 Per kg (The price ranges from 22.5/kg-61.5/kg). Also, about 22 lakhs Priority Household (PHH) families (earlier referred to as BPL)may not even get the benefit at all since they do not have a bank account.
This begs the question, Is the compensation enough? And how long is the government going to give monetary compensation instead of rice, and is the government doing anything for the procurement of rice?
Yuva Nidhi scheme - This scheme provides Rs. 1500 per month to unemployed graduates and Rs. 3000 to unemployed postgraduates who graduated in 2022-23 and didn't get a job in the first 6 months. The benefit will be given for two years. Now, this scheme doesn't benefit anyone who graduated before the mentioned academic year or anyone who isn't a domicile of Karnataka. While the latter makes sense as it only benefits the people, the government can also benefit from it.
The beneficiaries haven't been unemployed for that long and can get jobs easily, but the ones who have been unemployed for longer periods are in dire need of support. Thus, various student groups have been demanding that the benefit be made available to all unemployed youth. For now, though, was this Congress's way to escape having to shell out a lot more money to fulfill its guarantee?
Gruha Jyothi scheme - Initially, it was criticized because the registration process was a bit too complex. However, it has since been simplified. According to The Deccan Chronicle, over 1 crore registrations had been done by July 5th. The scheme will provide 200 units of free electricity, as long as it doesn't exceed the limit of 200 units. If it does, the household has to pay the whole bill.
This detail was defended by Congress officials, as they mentioned how 96% of the consumers in Karnataka, use about 50-55 units, which will get free electricity (fixed charges will be there). The remaining 4% will continue paying electricity bills as long as they have the ability to do so. But, the high rates of electricity are still not going away, as tenants are still talking about soaring rates. The government has mentioned several times that this is temporary. Thus, let's see how the situation unfolds.
It is evident that Congress intends to make its revival through Karnataka building on the momentum that the Bharat Jodo Yatra had created. The state will be used as a showcase for Congress to claim that similar schemes are to be replicated in other states and 2024 nation-wide if they get their way. However, that is only possible if the government keeps an eye on the regulation of all the new schemes and changes it has come up with. Thus, only time will tell if Congress can pull off the victory next year over the BJP led NDA, which is also preparing for the big battle.