Hyderabad, May 3 (IANS) With less than a year to go for assembly elections, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy is announcing populist schemes fast and furious to woo the voters and also to consolidate his position in the ruling Congress party.
After 'Mana Biyyam' (Re.1 a kg rice), 'Amma Hastam' (a monthly basket of nine essential commodities for Rs.185), 'Indiramma kalalu' (sub-plans for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes), the chief minister has now announced 'Bangaru Talli', a new scheme for the welfare of girls from poor families.
If the rice and nine essential commodities were meant to lure Below Poverty Line families and 'Indiramma kalalu' to win over the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, the latest scheme is aimed at wooing women, who constitute a little over 50 percent of the electorate.
According to the 2009 figures, Andhra Pradesh had 28.6 million women voters as opposed to 28 million men.
'Bangaru Talli', which is meant to protect the girl child from gender discrimination and reverse the deteriorating sex ratio, was launched across the state Wednesday. Every girl covered under the scheme will get money from her birth till her education and marriage.
The state government will give Rs.1,000 every month to every pregnant woman the moment she conceives. If she delivers a baby girl, the government will deposit Rs.2,500 for her in mother's bank account. It will also pay Rs 1,500 every year till the girl turns five.
The government will give Rs.1,000 at the time of her admission to school, Rs.2,000 every year from the first to the fifth standard and Rs.2,500 from the sixth to eighth standard and Rs.3,000 for the ninth and 10th standards. The girl will get Rs.3,500 every year for the 11th and 12th standards and Rs 4,000 a year during graduation.
If the girl stops her education at the last stage, she will be given Rs 50,000 for her marriage expenses. Those who complete their graduation will get Rs.1 lakh.
Last year, Kiran Kumar Reddy had embarked on an 'Indiramma Baata', a mass outreach programme to ensure that the benefits of government schemes reach the people.
The other schemes launched by him include 'Rajiv Yuva Kirnalu' aimed at providing jobs to 1.5 million youths in private industry by 2014 after developing their skills, interest-free loans to farmers and loans at low interest to women's self-help groups.
Political observers say by launching the new schemes, Kiran Kumar Reddy is trying to emerge as his own man by consolidating his position within the party and also countering the YSR Congress party, which often targets him for diluting the welfare schemes launched by Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the chief minister who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2009.
Keen to dump the YSR legacy in view of the corruption scandals involving the late leader and his jailed son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, 52-year-old Kiran Kumar Reddy is coming out with populist schemes to build his own image. Often taunted by his critics as a "nominated" chief minister with no mass base, he is trying to emerge as a leader with mass appeal in all regions of the state, a political analyst said.
After the death of YSR, the Congress lacked a leader with charisma and has been facing a series of problems with the revolt by his son Jaganmohan Reddy and renewed agitation for separate statehood to Telangana.
The central leadership had appointed Kiran Kumar Reddy as chief minister in November 2010, replacing K. Rosaiah after a turbulent year of political crisis triggered by Jaganmohan Reddy's revolt and the agitation over Telangana.
Kiran Kumar Reddy loyalists believe he has already emerged powerful in the party and won the confidence of the central leadership by successfully countering both the challenges.
However, the announcement of the latest scheme at a public meeting by the chief minister has not gone down well with his detractors within the party.
Health Minister D.L. Ravindra Reddy, a vociferous critic of the chief minister, took exception to the unilateral manner in which the scheme was announced. He said the new schemes were being announced without ensuring proper implementation of the existing ones.
Ravindra Reddy went to the extent of asking the people to drive "us away from villages if the programme is not implemented properly".
Another senior leader and Panchayat Raj Minister K. Jana Reddy felt the scheme should have been announced after a discussion in the cabinet.
State Congress chief Botsa Satyanarayana, who is also a cabinet minister, said he had no knowledge of the scheme. "I will comment only after knowing all the details," he said.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)