Debt and welfare: On the new government in Madhya Pradesh, election promises and the exchequer 

With the swearing-in of Mohan Yadav as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has heralded a new era, a shift from Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s reign of nearly 20 years. In Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the BJP has chosen new leaderships. Though Mr. Chouhan continues to command significant popularity in the State, a realignment of interest groups and leaders is now likely. The BJP’s massive majority is largely being credited to Mr. Chouhan who undertook 165 rallies ahead of the polls. But that strength, paradoxically, could force the new Chief Minister to chart his own course. With Mr. Yadav, an OBC leader, and his deputies — Jagdish Devda, an SC leader, and Rajendra Shukla, a Brahmin leader — the BJP aims to consolidate its rainbow caste coalition in the State, with the pointed exclusion of Muslims. Meanwhile, continuing its tribal outreach, the new government in one of its first decisions increased the Tendu patta collection rate from ₹3,000 to ₹4,000 per bag, a promise it had made in its manifesto. The party also expects to radiate the effects of that consolidation to neighbouring Hindi-belt States. In Madhya Pradesh, OBCs alone form more than 50% of the population, while SCs account for about 17%. Brahmins are considered an influential community in the State’s Vindhya region, a long-time BJP stronghold. The Yadavs have been relatively less enthusiastic than others to the BJP’s overtures towards OBCs. Hence, Mr. Yadav’s appointment is a new leap in the BJP’s social engineering.

The new government will have its hands full from the word go. One of the most prominent and effective campaign promises of the BJP was to enhance the Ladli Behna Scheme. About 1.31 crore women from poor households get ₹1,250 a month at present, and the BJP, under Mr. Chouhan, had promised to gradually raise it to ₹3,000. Mr. Yadav, however, has not yet indicated his plans on this. The BJP has also promised to hike the support prices of wheat and paddy crops to ₹2,700 and ₹3,100, respectively. It had also promised to provide LPG cylinder at ₹450 to the beneficiaries of the Ladli Behna Scheme and the Centre’s PM Ujjwala scheme. Fulfilling these promises and continuing welfare schemes are expected to pose an extra burden to the State’s exchequer as the government is already reeling under heavy debt, estimated to be close to ₹4 lakh crore, due to various loans by the previous governments. The BJP’s social engineering involves wider representation and a widening hamper of welfare schemes. Needless to say, it has social and economic costs.