BJP ‘ duplicates ’ plans to win Dalit voters

MUMBAI: In an attempt to woo Dalit voters ahead of the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra assembly elections, the BJP has been launching welfare schemes for the community. However, in the process it seems to be duplicating some schemes leading to chaos and confusion among government officials as well as beneficiaries, political experts say.

For instance, while there are already two schemes to promote inter-caste marriages— one by the Centre and another at the state level—state social justice minister Rajkumar Badole last week launched a new scheme with the same objective. According to the state government, a marriage is considered inter-caste only if one of the spouses belongs to SC, ST, VJNT or SBC community.

Under the central scheme, inter-caste couples get Rs 2.5 lakh on marriage from Dr Babasaheb Ambedekar Foundation, a central government body. At the state level, the social justice department offers Rs 50,000 to such couples—this has been recently increased to Rs 2.5 lakh. Now, the scheme launched by Badole provides for Rs 2.5 lakh incentive to promote inter-caste marriages held in groups (mass marriages).

Officials say this has caused confusion as there’s no mechanism to verify whether a couple is trying to draw benefits under all the schemes.

“The new scheme will be implemented by Samta Pratishthan, an autonomous body working under the social justice department. However, this would cause confusion as there are already two such schemes. According to the new scheme, inter-caste couple should get married at the mass marriage ceremony,” said an official. Political experts say that instead of launching similar schemes, the BJP led government needs to work on converging schemes without duplication to effectively address the issue.

While Badole was not available for comment, Dilip Kamble, junior social justice minister, said that there is no confusion. “The two schemes, implemented by the state and the Centre, are different. The state will recommend to the Centre about who can avail the benefit of its scheme, so there is no question of it being misused,” said Kamble.