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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 April 2024

Lok Sabha elections 2024: Trinamul Congress seeks to cash in on doles

Over the next three-five days, Trinamul women’s wing workers will be part of an extensive outreach initiative across Bengal, to apprise women of the decision and its benefits under Lakshmir Bhandar

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya Calcutta Published 10.02.24, 10:13 AM
Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee File image

Trinamul Congress is preparing to go big in their campaign for the general election with the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to enhance the Lakshmir Bhandar monthly payout, while the BJP appears bent on fostering discontent among non-general category beneficiaries, who got a 20 per cent hike compared to the cent per cent for those in the general category.

On Saturday, the ruling party’s women’s wing will hold celebratory meetings, with at least 5,000 women in attendance, in each of the 341 blocks of the state.

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In the city, Trinamul women’s wing chief Chandrima Bhattacharya — also the state’s finance minister, who presented the provisions in the budget on Thursday — will
lead a march of gratitude from Golpark to Hazra, starting at 3pm.

“We will all gather and thank the honourable chief minister for this landmark decision, despite the Centre’s step-motherly treatment of Bengal, and its unjust, unethical withholding of funds due to our people,” said Bhattacharya.

Over the next three-five days, Trinamul women’s wing workers will be part of an extensive outreach initiative across Bengal, to apprise women of the decision and its benefits under Lakshmir Bhandar.

The state government announced a Rs 500 hike for Lakshmir Bhandar beneficiaries in the general category (to Rs 1,000 a month), and an increase of Rs 200 for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe women (to Rs 1,200 a month). This involves an annual allocation of Rs 12,000 crore and has over 2.11 crore beneficiaries now.

“While those speaking of Atmanirbhar Bharat are busy with setting goals for 2047, the Bengal government has given the roadmap for Swanirbhor Bangla of today. Amid sky-high inflation, Mamata Banerjee has ensured that people continue to have money in their hands,” said Bhattacharya.

“This has set an example for the entire country,” she added.

The scheme was a campaign promise by Mamata for the 2021 Assembly election and implemented later that year, after a historic mandate in her favour for a third consecutive term as chief minister. It is widely viewed as a
key factor that went in Trinamul’s favour, with a substantial increase in support from women — half the state’s electorate.

However, the BJP has been harping on the disparate hikes for those in the general category and those in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

“Why this discrimination? Is it because our mothers and sisters from SCs and STs are nationalist in spirit and vote overwhelmingly in favour of Narendra Modi?” asked the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.

Of the 84 (out of 294) Assembly seats reserved for SCs and STs, the BJP had led in 46, while Trinamul had secured leads in 37, in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. In the Assembly elections of 2021, the BJP won 39 of those seats (in its total tally of 77 amid a statewide rout), while Trinamul won 45.

Even outside the reserved seats, the BJP’s chief areas of electoral strength in the state are mostly in the north and the west, with a considerable population of SCs and STs.

“We are certainly not going to sit around, twiddling thumbs. We will campaign extensively to show how anti-SC and ST this government is,” said a BJP state unit functionary.

Asked why the scope for the disparity allegation was left, despite the absence of a prohibitive financial implication, sources in the ruling dispensation said it was a conscious decision made on the basis of feedback from the ground.

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