New Delhi: Freebies galore in the manifestos of political parties in Uttar Pradesh where laptops and smart phones are being promised even as loan waivers to farmers remain the mainstay of the assurances.
Taking a leaf out of populist schemes from the south, the ruling Samajwadi Party has promised pressure cooker, food grains for the poor and ghee and milk for students besides expanding pension benefits under different schemes to one crore people.
The Samajwadi Party (SP), which had caught everyone's attention with its manifesto in the last elections that promised providing students with laptops and tablets, has tried to tame its horses this time.
But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had decimated all rivals in 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the state, has gone a step ahead, promising laptop to every student "without discrimination" along with 1 GB internet data every month for a period of one year.
The SP has this time promised laptops to meritorious students and smart phones for all.
BJP and Congress, which is fighting the polls in alliance with SP, besides parties like Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have all promised free wi-fi internet services in all colleges and universities, apparently to cash in on the 'Digital India' wave.
Like in the past, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), however, has stayed clear of coming out with a manifesto this elections, with its supremo Mayawati stressing that her party does not believe in making promises but "acting" on them.
Congress has promised to provide free school education for every girl child and give free bicycles to girl students from Class IX to XII.
BJP, on the other hand, has announced free school education to all students and extending it till graduation for the meritorious ones.
Notably, to instil a technical approach and scientific attitude among the students who passed class XII the state government had launched a scheme to provide a laptop to them.
In 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years, Rs 3,43,009.91 crore were spent and 14,82,093 students covered in the scheme. In 2016-17, it was proposed to cover 39,600 students, according to an official UP government data on planning.
With nearly 20 crore people, Uttar Pradesh remains a populous state. It sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha and it has a 403-member Assembly.
The state, however, does not fare well in important sectors like education, health, industry, and agriculture engages over 70 per cent of its people.
BSP has announced waiving farm loans of up to Rs 1 lakh, while BJP, Congress, SP and RLD have made a similar promise albeit without announcing any such upper limits.
In a bid to woo farmers, parties including BJP and SP have promised round-the-clock power supply while Congress raised a similar pitch with its slogan "karza maaf, bijli half" (loan waiver and 50 per cent reduction in power bills).
The BJP, in its manifesto called 'Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra', has also promised lower rates of interest on loans to farmers, an assurance which the SP has retained from its 2012 manifesto.
SP has promised to raise crop insurance scheme to Rs 7.5 lakh from present Rs 5 lakh, while also setting up a Treasury for Farmers.
The issue of pending payments to sugarcane farmers in the state, particularly in western parts, has been simmering for quite some time now with parties highlighting it in their poll documents.
BJP has promised clearing all such dues within 120 days of coming to power, while RLD has assured ensuring full payments in just two weeks' time.
Almost all the parties invariably have promised modernisation of the mandis and have given assurances of connecting them with technology to ensure fair price to the farmers for their yield and facilitate its sale.
Congress listed its thrust areas to boost infrastructure and promised to ensure food security by providing wheat and rice at Rs 3 and Rs 2 a kg, giving nutritious meal in Mid Day Meal scheme and revamping Public Distribution System.
BJP said that on lines of the central government's decision, no interview will be held for Class III and Class IV UP government jobs to end corruption in recruitment if it comes to power.
BSP said if it gets back to power, quota facility will continue besides reservation will also be extended to the poor among the upper castes, based on their financial condition, even as SP, which promised extra reservation to Muslims in 2012, stayed mum on the matter this time.
Mayawati, who has alleged politics of vendetta, said minorities and Dalits were framed and sent to jail during the SP rule while promising that these cases will be reviewed and those found innocent will be freed, as she eyed her traditional vote bank.
The Congress manifesto vowed to appoint a police ombudsman to handle cases of police oppression and set up a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to ensure relief for victims of criminal oppression.
Even as its ally SP stressed on "social justice" while boasting of all-round development during last five years, Congress has vowed to provide free legal aid to all members of the SC, ST, OBC communities and appoint Suraksha Mitra to assist in filing of cases committed against Dalits.
Uttar Pradesh, which has time and again drawn flak for its law and order issues, notably has a 50 per cent shortage of police staff.
According to a recent Union Home Ministry report, UP Police has been working with 1.80 lakh personnel as against a sanctioned strength of 3.64 lakh.
While Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has promised three promotions to police personnel on meet basis during the service tenure, BJP manifesto states recruitment of 1.5 lakh personnel on vacant slots.
RLD has made a general pitch for early recruitments on all vacant positions under the state government.
To ensure the safety of college girls, innovative "anti-Romeo squads" will be set up near colleges to check eve-teasing, said BJP.
While BJP once again raked up the issues of 'Triple Talaq' and Ram temple, promising its construction through constitutional measures, Congress promised bringing in law against "hate crimes".
On "exodus" of people due to communal tension, BJP said a special team would be formed to check it at district level and the District will be held responsible in such matters.
The Ajit Singh-led RLD has notably made a pitch for setting up four new benches of the Allahabad High Court, a demand that has been echoing in far-off parts of the state.
An interesting overlap in promises has been seen in BJP and SP manifesto, both of which promised expanding the metro rail network, upgrading 100 police service, 108 ambulance service, among a few others.
Framing of policies to ensure ease of doing business, job creations, promotion of local handicrafts, skill development of youth, establishing cold storages among others have found place in manifestos of all political parties.
Invariably all parties' manifestos promise improvement in healthcare services with BJP and SP assuring establishment of more AIIMS-like institutes, even as the first two AIIMS in Raebareli and Gorakhpur which were approved for UP in 2009 and 2012 respectively are yet to go operational....