GEHLOT’S LAST GAM­BIT

CM un­veils sops and cash hand­outs in poll year. Will it stop a resur­gent Va­sund­hara Raje?

India Today - - OPINION POLL - By Ro­hit Par­i­har

Ra­jasthan Chief Min­is­ter Ashok Gehlot is rolling out a bou­quet of pop­ulist schemes and di­rect cash trans­fers in a last- ditch at­tempt at halt­ing the BJP jug­ger­naut in the run- up to Assem­bly polls in De­cem­ber. The cash hand­outs for pen­sions, saris, blan­kets, lap­tops and tablets to­tal Rs 3,000 crore, de­spite a stretched state ex­che­quer whose to­tal debt and li­a­bil­ity stood at Rs 1.71 lakh crore at the end of the fi­nan­cial year on March 31.

The pro­pos­als were part of Gehlot’s state bud­get in March but the sud­den push for it by dis­tribut­ing cash stems from the suc­cess of BJP ri­val Va­sund­hara Raje’s on­go­ing Su­raj Sankalp Ya­tra that be­gan on April 4. Gehlot, in fact tried to negate Raje by start­ing a ri­val state- wide San­desh Ya­tra on March 29 to pub­li­cise both his past achieve­ments and elec­tion- year schemes. His elec­toral pitch is di­rect. “Aap batayein ki hum kya karen ki aap hamein vote dein ( Please tell me what we should do to get your votes),” he said at a rally in Sri Gan­gana­gar on April 9. “Jo cha­hoge, vahi mi­lega ( You’ll get what you want),” he told peo­ple while inau­gu­rat­ing a Haj house in Jaipur on May 6. The state govern­ment has also gone on a me­dia blitzkrieg, with doc­u­men­taries, ads in print and TV and hoard­ings across the state.

The new- found ac­tivism seeks to cover up Gehlot’s sin­gu­lar lack of ini­tia­tive since his term be­gan in De­cem­ber 2008. His mora­to­rium on rais­ing prices of agri­cul­tural power in 2009 and buy­ing costly power with­out adding a new gen­er­a­tion plant has forced state- run power firms into a Rs 60,000- crore debt. RBI has pre­dicted a se­vere re­pay­ment cri­sis for the state in 2017- 18. Seventy- seven per cent of NREGA works re­main in­com­plete for want of funds. His tar­get of dis­burs­ing Rs 1,400 crore as loan among BPL fam­i­lies to build one­room ten­e­ments has been ham­strung by with­held pay­ments, as many peo­ple took the Rs 25,000 first in­stal­ment but failed to sub­mit ev­i­dence of con­struc­tion to get the sec­ond in­stal­ment. Vil­lages across the state are dot­ted with skele­tal walls with­out a roof. In Naal

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