It has been raining freebies in poll-bound Gujarat.
Since election dates for Himachal Pradesh
were announced, the Gujarat government
has been on an overdrive to make last-minute announcements (mostly for government
employees) to appease voters before the state goes to elections. Gujarat
would have Assembly elections on December 9 and 14, said the Election Commission on Wednesday. Results would be announced on December 18.
had alleged that government
was delaying announcing election dates to that it can announce sops till the last minute to woo voters. The Model Code of Conduct kicked in on Tuesday, ending the use government
machinery or announcements to influence voters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited the state three times during the month, BJP
President Amit Shah
extended his stay here after Diwali (he was here to celebrate the festival with family), and Congress
Vice-President Rahul Gandhi
has been frequenting poll-bound Gujarat.
The state government
has announced sops worth Rs 11,000 crore in the last few weeks. Around four major schemes have been announced in the past 24 hours, including a 50 per cent pay increase for accredited social health activists (ASHA) workers. Currently, these workers get Rs 2,500 a month.
Through a network of around 40,000 workers, Gujarat
implements the National Rural Health Mission in the state. These workers have been up in arms against the BJP
for some time and had also met Rahul Gandhi
earlier this month demanding equal rights, pay and social security benefits.
On Tuesday, the state government
announced that the 18 per cent goods and services tax (GST) on purchase of drip irrigation equipment would be waived. This would cost the state exchequer around Rs 78 crore a year.
Political analysts said this was BJP's last-ditch effort to build bridges with the farming community. Patidar farmers have been unhappy with the state government
policies for long. The government
also raised the annual income ceiling for beneficiaries from socially backward classes from Rs 47,000 to Rs 1.2 lakh (for rural) and up to Rs 1.5 lakh (for urban areas). The state also extended paid maternity leaves, increased compensation to kin in case of death of a contractual government
employee and increased daily allowance for contractual employees on tour.