At least two of the five poll-bound states today rushed to announce populist schemes hours ahead of the election dates being announced. Tamil Nadu and West Bengal introduced various policy changes seemingly aimed at electoral prospects. The model code of conduct, which comes into effect immediately after the Election Commission declares the poll dates, prohibits governments from making fresh welfare announcements so as to minimise any undue advantage accruing to ruling parties.
The Commission is expected to hold a press conference today at around 4.30 pm to announce the dates for the assembly elections in Kerala, Puducherry, and Assam, apart from West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
Introducing a hike for daily-wage workers under the West Bengal Urban Employment Scheme, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today tweeted that up to 56,500 workers - 40,500 unskilled, 8,000 semi-skilled, and 8,000 skilled - will benefit from this.
I am pleased to announce a HIKE in the wages of daily wage workers under WB Urban Employment Scheme:— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) February 26, 2021
> To ₹202 per day from ₹144 earlier for unskilled labour
> To ₹303 from ₹172 earlier for semi-skilled
> ₹404 for skilled labour (new category introduced)
Minutes before the announcement of polls, the Tamil Nadu assembly passed a bill to provide 10.5% reservation for the Vanniyar community (within the 20 per cent most backward classes quota).
Earlier in the day, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami made his own populist declaration: Gold loans against up to six sovereigns given by cooperative banks to farmers and the poor will be waived.
Justifying the move, he said the economy was yet to recover from Covid-19 and this would help the poor redeem the gold they had pledged during the lockdown.
The gold loan schemes with low interest rates were offered by the Tamil Nadu State Apex Co-operative bank as part of the pandemic relief measures. The interest rate has been fixed at 6 per cent a year.
In this, people could get Rs 25,000 to Rs 1,00,000 and the loan had to be returned in three months.
Earlier, the Chief Minister had announced a similar waiver of up to Rs 12000 crore worth of farm loans given to over 16 lakh farmers. In the state assembly, Mr Palaniswami said it was his first duty to address the grievances of the agricultural community.