For the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, fighting a narrative war with the Congress ahead of the state’s assembly elections, the campaign has persuaded women voters – 48% of the state’s electorate – to believe in Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government’s record of delivering welfare programmes.
The BJP and the Congress have put women voters front and center in their campaign strategy — while the state government launched the Ladli Behena scheme to provide monthly income assistance of ₹1,000 to women aged 23-60, the Congress has promised Nari Samman Yojana for ₹1,500 per month.
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The Chauhan government has already released two tranches, adding more than ₹2,400 crore to over 1.25 crore beneficiaries of the scheme. The challenge, however, is to convince beneficiaries that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, which means a commitment from Congress.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Sehore where the Ladli Behena scheme was launched Part of Chief Minister’s Assembly constituency Budhni falls in Sehore.
“We are getting regular Ladli Behena (money) installments and the money is really helpful,” said Radha Mewada, a resident. He used the cash to buy everything from pampering his children to buying medicine and cooking gas.
He also admitted filling the form furnished by Congress workers in the area for Mahila Samman Yojana. “It is, however, something that has been promised. It has already been distributed,” he said with a smile, but added that he had filled the form, “only” after the Congress came to power.
Also read: The Ladli Behna Yojana will extend assistance by ₹3,000 a month, said Chauhan
Manju Kumari, also from the area and a beneficiary, said she had full faith in Mr. Chauhan’s promise that the amount would gradually increase to ₹3,000. “If he has given ₹1,000, he will also give ₹3,000,” said Ms Kumari.
In fact, the BJP points to the fact that the ₹3,000 pledge is important, and says the first hike from ₹1,000 to ₹1,250 will be made within a month before the model code of conduct for elections in the state comes into effect.
“In situations of similar promises, those with a track record of fulfilling promises will gain public trust. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has a reliable track record with Ladli Lakshmi (scheme),” said a senior BJP leader.
What could push the BJP is what works against the party’s government in Karnataka — high cooking gas prices. The Congress has already announced ₹500 subsidy support for women to buy cooking gas and the central government’s subsidy of ₹200 per cylinder is unheard of in Bhopal or Sehore.
Mr. Chauhan’s record as chief minister for delivering on promises is therefore key to the BJP’s prospects in Madhya Pradesh. Very clearly, the road to Shyamala Pahar, the Chief Minister’s official residence, passes through the state anganwadi and kitchen.