TS Opposition Eye Aasara Pensioners

BRS is feeling pressure after the Congress promised to raise the Aasara pension to ₹4,000

Hyderabad: One of the biggest and most stable vote banks of the ruling BRS, senior citizens who receive the Aasara pension, a group of nearly 45 lakh beneficiaries, will be under siege from the Opposition, especially the Congress.

The Congress has decided to take on the BRS head-on in trying to win the support of this group, which stretches rather homogeneously across all constituencies, districts and caste and communal groupings, by promising to hike the pension to ₹4,000 per month.

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi unveiled the promise of a ₹4,000 per month pension scheme for nine categories, including senior citizens, physically challenged and widows, among others at a recent Khammam public meeting.

For its part, the BJP had promised to reduce the age limit, from 58 to 50, to cover more beneficiaries. The BRS, however, continues to maintain a dead silence on the issue.

Although BRS leaders are not willing to come on record why the party was not promising to increase Aasara pensions, sources say that in internal discussions, they are being told that it would not be possible to hike this amount as Aasara pensions were already imposing a huge financial burden on the state government.

Aasara pensions were increased from ₹1,000 (November 2014) to ₹2,016 in April 2019. Further, the BRS reduced the age limit from 65 years in 2014 to 57 years in August 2022.

On June 9, Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao announced the enhancement of Aasara pensions for the physically challenged from ₹3,016 per month to ₹4,016 per month, while addressing a BRS public meeting in Mancherial. This raised hopes among other categories of Aasara beneficiaries, but there has been no word from the government on this issue.

But the BRS is feeling pressure after the Congress promised to raise the Aasara pension to ₹4,000 from the present ₹2,016 per month, and BJP promised to reduce the age limit to 50 years from the present 57 years to extend pensions.

Etala Rajendar, who was recently named BJP Telangana state election management committee chief, is also promising to give pension to two persons in each household (husband and wife), unlike the current norm of extending benefits to only one person (either husband or wife). The Congress government, between 2004 and 2014, extended pensions to both husband and wife in the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh.

After the formation of Telangana in June 2014, Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao launched Aasara pensions in November 2014 and increased the pension amount from ₹200 to ₹1,000 per month. In the run-up to the December 2018 Assembly polls, Rao promised to increase Aasara pension amount to ₹2,016 per month if BRS was re-elected, besides reducing the age limit to 57 years. It is widely believed in political circles that these two promises played a key role in BRS retaining power for a second term.

Although the BRS government fulfilled the promise of hiking the Aasara pension to ₹2,106 from April 2019, within four months of retaining power, it took nearly four years to fulfil the promise of reducing the age limit, in December 2022.

Fears and concerns are being expressed in BRS circles over the party maintaining silence on enhancing Aasara pensions even after Congress and BJP are aggressively reaching out to people promising a hike in Aasara pensions.

They fear that the Opposition parties, especially the Congress, would derive great benefits in upcoming Assembly polls if BRS refuses to hike pensions.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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