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Owaisi’s entry may change UP’s political landscape

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Asaduddin_Owaisi_(2006)Lucknow:  The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of Asaduddin Owaisi plans to contest the coming three-tier panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh, giving the jitters to the ruling Samajwadi Party.

Both the BJP and the Samajwadi Party have announced they will contest the elections on party symbol at some places and support strong candidates at others.

Highly placed sources in the Hyderabad-based AIMIM told IANS that its president Owaisi, the party’s only Lok Sabha member, has given the green signal to the idea of fighting the panchayat battle. The party, known for its radical views, is working on the selection of candidates and finalizing the election strategy.

The panchayat polls will test the waters for the future in the electorally crucial Uttar Pradesh where the AIMIM feels it will have a key role to play in the 2017 assembly elections.

Owaisi has for long been itching to get his party’s footprint in Uttar Pradesh but the Samajwadi Party government thrice denied him permission to hold rallies in the state. The Samajwadi Party clearly fears that Owaisi would poach into its otherwise reliable Muslim support base. Muslims and Yadavs played a major role in catapulting the Samajwadi Party to power in 2012.

Owaisi, however, slipped into Uttar Pradesh’s Iftar gatherings in Meerut and Agra. Both cities have sizable Muslim populations.
Owaisi, often seen as a firebrand, mingled with the Who’s Who among Muslims and gave special time to Muslim youth.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is home to some 36 million Muslims. Their en bloc support to any single party creates a perception of winnability.

AIMIM state unit leader Mohd Tauheed Ahmed Siddiqui says the party will contest the Panchayat polls but “strategically and selectively”.

The winning potential of the candidates will be a key factor. The overall performance is expected to cast a shadow on the 2017 assembly polls.

The party, informed sources say, is focussing on western Uttar Pradesh – the flashpoint between Hindus and Muslims in 2013 when 67 people were killed in riots in the Muzaffarnagar region. Thousands became homeless.

Owaisi’s fiery speeches, his opposition to the hanging of Mumbai serial bombings accused Yakub Memon and his rant against Hindutva forces have endeared him to many Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, specially the youth.

The Samajwadi Party, the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are haunted by the spectre of Owaisi eating into their vote bank.

“We are not sure of the exact impact but, yes, the AIMIM’s entry into UP is a worrying prospect,” says a senior Congress functionary.

Some feel that the AIMIM may meet a premature end like the Apna Dal, which till not long ago was a party to watch out for until it bit the dust in the 2012 battle.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is, however, happy over the development. Its leaders feel that Owaisi will further polarize the electorate on religious lines, in the process consolidating Hindus behind the BJP.

BJP strategists are also confident that Owaisi’s entry will further weaken the electoral prospects of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress.

Established in 1928 to keep the then Hyderabad State independent, the MIM was banned after the state’s merger with the Indian Union in 1948.

Owaisi’s grandfather, Moulana Abdul Wahid Owaisi, revived it in 1958 to champion the cause of Indian Muslims.

It has seven members in the 120-seat Telangana assembly. Two of its candidates were also elected to the Maharashtra assembly last year, giving it a major boost. It has since decided to expand nationally.

Often branded communal by critics, the MIM claims to represent the interests of not just Muslims but all socially and economically backward classes. It says it is the only party in India to develop a chain of educational institutions and state-of-the-art hospitals.

(IANS)

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Is NYAY Going To Be A Game Changer for Congress?

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers.

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Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress state units given more power for 2019 battle- wikimedia commons

By Amit Kapoor & Manisha Kapoor 

The idea of launching Nyuntam Aay Yojana, a cash transfer scheme that intends to provide Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent Indian families, by the Congress Party if it comes to power, has stirred a debate among the policymakers about whether the move is economically viable or is just a tactic by the Congress Party to garner votes in the upcoming general elections.

The discussions are foreseeable, provided that this intervention to ensure basic income to the poor households will cost the country somewhere between 1.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent of GDP, a number higher than the government’s expenditure on healthcare and education. The implementation of NYAY means an additional cost between Rs 3.6 lakh crore to Rs 7.2 lakh crore per year.

To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. However, this will be a major dent in India’s budget expenditure and will explode the fiscal deficit from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

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An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. Pixabay

Apart from fiscal prudence, the other immediate concern surrounding the scheme is the identification of beneficiaries and the database that will be used for this. There is no official income database available with the government at the individual level and since most of the poor work in unorganised rural areas, there is no direct way of verifying their incomes such as through a payroll or income tax.

The proponents of the approach state that a good starting point could be Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011 if one goes by multi-dimensional aspect of poverty. However, one can’t ignore the fact that even if the scheme defines poverty by assets and not income for quick exclusion rules, the data is outdated. A scheme targeted at reducing poverty can’t use data that is seven-eight years old. Even if one ignores that, it should be noted that there are major methodological issues with how data was collected. This is reflected in the discrepancies that exist in the data collected through SECC and other governmental data. A fresh survey for the identification process will lead to possibilities of corruption as in other targeted schemes. For instance, various studies have shown that many people who are not below poverty line have BPL cards.

One should also keep in mind that there exist significant disparities across Indian states and districts in terms of income levels and affordability of basic needs such as education, healthcare etc. Therefore, the same amount that means a lot to a person living in a low-income state or a state that has good access to public facilities such as public hospitals, schools etc would not be enough for a person trying to make a living in a high-income region. As a result, a prerequisite for such a scheme is a detailed regional level survey on income characteristics of Indian states and districts.

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To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. Pixabay

Another major concern surrounding the scheme is its inflationary implications. It is argued that the act of transferring cash to the target population will boost their purchasing power, which would lead to an increase in demand for goods and services and, thus, push prices upwards. Advocates of the approach have tried to argue that studies around the world present a lot of evidence to the contrary.

An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. However, these evidences should be considered with a pinch of salt. They rest on the assumption that the money will be spent on useful goods, that will help the local economy in becoming more productive. Though this will not be the case always.

Also Read: Food Unites People Across The Globe

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers. This idea is supported by claim that in-kind transfers will help by encouraging the consumption of right things, such as healthy food.

Given India’s concerns about rising unemployment rates, jobless growth and the fact that we need to have effective utilization of our young population to gain a competitive edge over other economies, the promoters are trying to project that NYAY can prove to be a game changer. However, for the Indian economy, a better alternative would be to strengthen the existing public services landscape by removing social, political and personal barriers, along with carrying out structural reforms that leads to creation of more productive jobs. (IANS)