| Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh has changed more parties and made and broken more alliances than even he would care to remember. Last week, when he withdrew the RLD's three ministers from the Mulayam Singh Government, and announced that he was snapping the alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP), it came as no surprise. For sometime now, Singh had been hobnobbing with the Congress with an eye on getting for himself a cabinet berth at the Centre, even though he had ready excuse for his latest political somersault-the Mulayam Government's delay in clearing arrears of sugarcane producers and his reluctance to increase the support price for cane. |
Singh's withdrawal from the alliance with the SP follows the decision of long-term Mulayam allies like the CPI and the CPI(M) to fight elections on their own and pit their candidates against those of the SP. But unperturbed, Mulayam is likely to seek a fresh vote of confidence to prove that his Government still commanded a majority. Throughout last year he was doling out goodies worth over Rs 1,500 crore in a bid to retain power. Mulayam has lined up grand sops and attractive new schemes for both Hindus and Muslims. Teachers, lawyers, policemen, youth, women, farmers and traders are being promised plenty. His aim is to change his anti-Hindu image of the past. And the best way to do this, he seems to believe, is to shower them with money.
The chief minister has already ordered the construction of an airstrip and top quality roads in Chitrakoot, where legend has it that Lord Ram spent over 12 years in exile. Special funds have been sanctioned by the state Government to repair the roads in the holy cities of Mathura, Varanasi and Ayodhya for the lakhs of pilgrims who visit these places every year. He has also ordered the construction of a much-needed bridge over river Ganga in Ramnagar near Varanasi.
The stakes in the coming elections are high and a victory or defeat this time could have graver consequences for Mulayam, politically as well as personally. "If I win the coming elections, the UPA will have to go," are the chief minister's words. Mulayam is meeting party workers in different parts of the state, urging them to unite and leave aside their differences. He has also warned his workers to keep to their constituencies and spend time with the people understanding their problems.
| PROMISES, PROMISES |
BHOOMI SENA YOJANA: Rs 99.73 crore will be spent under this during 2005-08, of which the state's share is Rs 86.37 crore and farmers' share is Rs 13 crore. As many as 110 lakh man-days of rural employment will be generated.
KANYA VIDYA DHAN YOJANA: An amount of Rs 20,000 is being distributed to every girl student who has passed Class 12, irrespective of caste or community. Mulayam has now earmarked Rs 1,100 crore for around 5.5 lakh girls.
UNEMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE: Youth unemployed after graduation are compensated. Over 7.5 lakh youth have benefited under this scheme. Mulayam has now promised to raise the unemployment allowance from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000
SIX METROS: The chief minister has promised to give 'metro' status to 6 cities-Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra, Allahabad, Varanasi and Meerut. The move is estimated to benefit over 10 lakh government employees in both salaries and perks.
As for the promises, under the Kanya Vidya Dhan Yojana, the state Government last year gave Rs 20,000 to every girl who had passed Class 12. An amount of Rs 1,100 crore has been earmarked for about 5.5 lakh girls, irrespective of caste or community. Another of Mulayam's popular schemes is the unemployment allowance scheme. In the run-up to the elections, the chief minister has distributed Rs 500 each to unemployed graduates. The Government has already sanctioned over Rs 500 crore under this scheme, benefiting over 7.5 lakh youth. Now he has promised to double this allowance to Rs 1,000 a month if elected to power.
Mulayam has certainly kept his promises in the past. After promising to abrogate the draconian Anti-Copying Act-implemented by then BJP chief minister Rajnath Singh in 1991-if he was elected to power, he fulfilled it in 1993-1995 when he took over office for the second time.
He has promised to give 'metro' status to six cities-Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra, Allahabad, Varanasi and Meerut-claiming that the elevation would benefit over 10 lakh government employees in terms of salaries and perks. Some of his sops benefit the police too. Apart from one lakh fresh recruitments in the Police Department, Mulayam has announced a special hike in their allowance for uniforms, meals and duties. In addition, the allowances of home guard jawans have been increased and the civil police have now been allowed to search vehicles-earlier the exclusive domain of the traffic police.
Next in the line of beneficiaries is the teaching community. Mulayam has promised to include 1,000 unaided intermediate schools in the aid list benefiting over 15,000 teachers surviving on salaries of less than Rs 600 a month. Pension revision of teaching and non-teaching staff-numbering over 20,000 retired employees from universities and unaided degree colleges-has been pending since 1996. It is estimated to cost the government Rs 15 crore a year.
And for the lawyers, the chief minister has not only doubled the fee of district and additional district government counsels, but has ordered the construction of lawyers' chambers in the district collectorate. Also, he has announced concessions for women registering properties in their names. Government assistance, so far confined to SC/ST marriages, has now been extended to upper caste unreserved families. Monthly allowances of nurses have been increased by 15 per cent. Development funds of the Vidhayak Nidhi have also been increased from Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.25 crore.
The irony, however, is that while Uttar Pradesh is already facing debts amounting to Rs 1 lakh crore, these schemes have increased the burden of the state exchequer by over Rs 1,500 crore. And yet nothing has been said or done about poor power supply in urban as well as rural areas of the state, abject poverty claiming the lives of the marginal and landless farmers and the failure to attain an impressive industrial growth rate. But the positive side is that previously ignored problems ailing many sections of society have, for once, been looked into.