Rajasthan Congress Starts Cylinder-At-Rs 500 Scheme In Election Year

Congress hopes the implementation of this promise, and others like 100 units of free power, will put it back in the race in Rajasthan.

The Rs 640 subsidy offered to 14 lakh families today cost the Rajasthan government Rs 60 crore.


Ashok Gehlot government's big-ticket promise - cooking gas cylinders at Rs 500 - came into effect today, barely six months away from the assembly elections in Rajasthan. The move was well-received by the state's women, who are known to support the BJP, especially during the Lok Sabha elections. This is the biggest cooking gas subsidy being given in the country - crucial for the Congress in a state like Rajasthan that has a long tradition of voting out the incumbent for over three decades. 

"We are talking about savings and relief. It was the theme in our budget and we are giving people relief," Chief Minister Gehlot said at a programme to launch the scheme. 

"This is social security... schemes like these and the right to health should be made applicable nationally for all countrymen," he added.

This first big-ticket promise was made by the Ashok Gehlot government in December last year. The next one was made last week - 100 units of free power to every family. In February, the government also announced raising the coverage amount of its flagship health scheme -  Chiranjeevi Swasthya Bima Yojana - from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh per year per family. 

As in Karnataka, the Congress is hoping that the welfare measures will draw the focus away from factionalism in the state unit. A fresh focus on governance is seen as the only way to bring the party back in the race in a state where the incumbent is normally written off.

The feud between Mr Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot has been escalating since it surfaced three years ago -  a matter Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly called attention to at his rallies in Rajasthan.

After Mr Pilot's 'ultimatum' to the party to launch a state-wide agitation if a high-level committee is not formed to investigate the alleged scams that took place during the previous BJP government, the Congress brass made an attempt last week to broker peace between Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot, but with uncertain results. 

The opposition BJP, however, pointed out that Ashok Gehlot's government is not giving relief where it is really required. "They should give relief in diesel and petrol.  That affects everyone and Rajasthan has the highest VAT on diesel and petrol," said state BJP chief CP Joshi.

Most of the women NDTV spoke to, however, disagreed. 

Shashi Bhati from Jaipur, who is a widow and the sole-earning member in her family, told NDTV, "It is a big help. I cannot manage in the Rs 10,000-Rs 12,000 that I earn. I can spend the money saved on cylinders on my children's nutrition or their tuition."

"We live in a joint family. Our income is low, and this scheme will give us Rs 640 extra. We can use this money for our children's education. Since the money will go into the account of women, it will empower us," said another beneficiary, Kamla Yadav, who is from Khor Nagoriya on the outskirts of Jaipur. 

The Rs 640 subsidy offered to 14 lakh families today cost the Rajasthan government Rs 60 crore and the overall burden is expected to be Rs 1,500 crore, when the scheme reaches its target of 73 lakh people.