From TVs to free education, it’s the season of promises in Andhra

March 6th, 2009 - 12:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, March 6 (IANS) It is raining promises in Andhra Pradesh ahead of next month’s polls to the Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly with opposition parties promising to give voters free colour televisions and even outright cash.
Hoping to counter the Congress government’s populist schemes implemented during the last five years, the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the newest entrant in the political battlefield, actor Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam, are promising the virtual moon.

Taking a leaf out of the DMK in Tamil Nadu, the TDP has offered free colour televisions to all poor families not having one. It has also promised cash doles.

Under the Cash Transfer Scheme (CTS) borrowed from Latin American countries, the opposition party has promised Rs.2,000 every month each to the poorest of the poor, Rs.1,500 to the poor and Rs.1,000 to middle class families.

In an attempt to woo women voters, it said the money would be paid to the female member of the families.

TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, who was a strong votary of economic reforms and opposed freebies during his nine-year rule (1995-2004), defended the promises saying that colour TVs were necessary for “infotainment” while CTS would provide social and economic security to the poor.

Interestingly, Naidu, who ridiculed the Congress’ promise of free electricity to farmers, has also assured that his party would continue the scheme if voted to power. Besides, he has promised to continue construction of irrigation projects though he has been a bitter critic of the Congress government for taking them up “to earn kickbacks”.

The free TV scheme would require an estimated Rs.50 billion (Rs.5,000 crore) while CST would impose a burden of Rs.150 billion (Rs.15,000 crore) annually on the state exchequer.

The Congress has criticised Naidu saying his promises would mislead the people. “Whatever Mr Naidu has promised contradicts what he said in his book ‘Plainspeaking’ in which he called for doing away with all the sops as they amount to cheating the people,” said the state’s Finance Minister K. Rosaiah.

Not to be outdone, actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi has promised free school education for all.

Chiranjeevi, who launched the Praja Rajyam in August last year, has promised to continue the free electricity scheme and has assured the people of 10 hours of supply every day instead of the present seven hours.

Praja Rajyam, if voted to power, would also ensure free education from “KG to PG” for girls and all students belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward classes and economically backward classes.

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