Months ahead of Assembly elections, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday rolled out the 'Ladli Behna Yojana' under which Rs 1,000 is being digitally transferred to the accounts of 1.25 crore women in the state.
The government also promised to hike this dole to Rs 3,000 gradually, a move which is seen as a counter to Congress which had promised a financial aid of Rs 1,500 each to women, with certain riders, and a cooking gas cylinder at Rs 500 to households if it comes to power after the Assembly elections, due later this year.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan pressed a button at an event at the Garrison Ground here to digitally transfer the first dole of the scheme under which beneficiaries will receive Rs 1,000 a month.
He said the scheme will empower women socially and economically.
The beneficiaries can withdraw the money from Sunday onwards, said officials.
"This amount will be gradually increased in the future as per financial arrangements to be done from time to time from the present Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 gradually. This amount will be increased to Rs 1,250 in the first stage and subsequently to Rs 1,500, Rs 1,750, Rs 2,000, Rs 2,250, Rs 2,500, Rs 2,750 and Rs 3,000,” the chief minister said.
The Yojna was introduced with the aim to empower poor women financially so that they can meet the small household expenditure like spending money to purchase books and ice cream for children and pay transport fare to visit their brothers or the house of their parents.
"Initially, the scheme was meant for women belonging to tribal communities of Baiga, Bhariya, and Shariya. After its success, the scheme is now introduced to cover all poor women," Chouhan said.
He said married women aged 21 will also get the benefit of this scheme.
In another outreach, the chief minister said the old age pension for women will be raised to Rs 1,000.
Targeting Congress, Chouhan alleged his predecessor Kamal Nath stopped various welfare schemes for women introduced by the previous BJP government including a scheme to pay Rs 1,000 to women of Baiga, Bhariya and Sahariya communities, the finance scheme for daughter's marriage, and the scheme to give Rs 4,000 to pregnant women.
He said all these schemes are restarted by his government.
With the 'Ladli Behna' scheme, the BJP government would reach out to about half of the 2.6 crore women voters in the state.
Women electorates outnumber their male peers in at least 18 of the 230 assembly constituencies in MP, as per an estimate. These areas include the tribal-dominated Balaghat, Mandla, Dindori, Alirajpur, and Jhabua districts.
The 'Ladli Behna' scheme was launched by Chouhan on March 5 in Bhopal and since then the chief minister participated in various related events in the state.
Under this scheme, women aged between 23-60 years are eligible to receive Rs 1,000 per month with certain riders, including that they are not income tax payees and their families' annual income is below Rs 2.5 lakh.
A provision of Rs 8,000 crore has been made for the scheme in the state budget.
The number of new women voters in MP has gone up by 2.79 per cent, while it is 2.30 per cent for male voters, officials had said. Of the 13.39 lakh new voters, 7.07 lakh are women, as per official records.
The rollout of the scheme comes two days ahead of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's visit to Jabalpur where she will launch her party's poll campaign at a rally.
Congress leaders claimed Priyanka had announced Rs 1,500 to eligible women under the 'Nari Samman Nidhi' in the run-up to the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls in December 2022 and that Chouhan had copied the move for his 'Ladli Behna Yojana'.
The last MP Assembly polls held on November 28, 2018, did not give a clear majority to any single party. The Congress emerged as the largest party with 114 seats in the 230-member House, while the BJP won 109 seats.
The Congress formed a coalition government under Kamal Nath, but it fell in March 2020 after several MLAs loyal to Jyotiraditya Scindia switched over to the BJP, paving the way for Shivraj Singh Chouhan to return as chief minister.