Labharthi (group of beneficiaries) emerged as a new bloc in Uttar Pradesh which got special mention in the electoral campaign of the BJP. The party claimed that the group of beneficiaries would definitely vote for the BJP as they have benefited from the welfare schemes launched by the Centre as well as by the State government such as direct benefit transfers, Kisan Samman Nidhi, Ujjwala scheme, PM Aawas Yojna, health insurance scheme and free ration scheme.
The post-poll survey findings support this argument to some extent. Almost four in five (80%) households in Uttar Pradesh have benefited from the free ration scheme and three in five households have benefited from the PDS scheme that provides ration at subsidised cost.
Another two schemes which benefited the voters were Kisan Samman Nidhi (benefited 57% of the farmer households) and Ujjwala scheme (46% of households benefited). Three-fourths of the households that benefited from the Ujjwala scheme said that they got their cylinders refilled. Three in ten voters in Uttar Pradesh also benefited from the health insurance scheme; and 27% received money in their accounts against welfare schemes. One-fifth of the households also got assistance to build their houses (Table 1).
As it was claimed that the BJP would bag a greater vote share from the labharthi varg, we tried to see their voting pattern. The direct benefit transfer scheme and Kisan Samman Nidhi were comparatively more effective in yielding votes for the BJP than the other schemes. More than half of the beneficiaries of these two schemes voted for the BJP alliance. On the other hand, the free ration beneficiaries did not help the BJP much; a little over two-fifths amongst them voted for the BJP (Table 2).
On whether the labharthis voted transcending their social identity, there is mixed evidence. The poor who benefited from the free ration and cash transfer voted more for the BJP as compared to the poor who were non-beneficiaries. The BSP was the most preferred party among the Dalit voters but Dalit beneficiaries were proportionally higher in number who supported the BJP than the non-beneficiaries from the Dalit community. Women as a group favoured the BJP, and once women received the benefits of the schemes their support for the BJP increased further.
Clearly, the BJP’s banking merely on labharthis was not enough to win the election; other factors also helped the BJP’s victory in Uttar Pradesh. Not all the schemes effectively helped the party; but a few schemes such as direct cash transfer, Kisan Samman Nidhi, health and housing schemes benefited the BJP to some extent.
Jyoti Mishra is a Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS; Suhas Palshikar taught Political Science and he is currently the Co-Director of the Lokniti programme and chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics