In UP, many wait for next poll gift: a smartphone

Sunday, 5 February 2017

It’s raining freebies this election season — from 1 GB Internet data to 2 kg of desi ghee. In 2012, when SP came to power in UP, it rode on one such promise — free laptops to students.

The Sunday Express met some of the beneficiaries — from a bride-to-be in Agra who has given away her laptop as dowry, to an accountant in Faizabad who still treasures his “first laptop” — and find many of them waiting for the next poll gift: a smartphone

In March 2013, a year after the Samajwadi Party came to power in Uttar Pradesh, it kept a key poll promise: free laptops to those who had cleared Class 12. The laptop scheme, offered by a party which under a young Akhilesh Yadav hoped to get the youth on its side, marked a break from the SP’s traditional anti-English and anti-technology politics under patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Towards the end of the SP’s five-year term, with another election looming, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav held a meeting in October 2016 with a select group of 30 beneficiaries for “first-hand information” on how the initiative had “changed lives”.

“The Chief Minister wanted to see the impact of the initiative on the knowledge, economic empowerment and employability of the beneficiary youths,” said Bhagwati Singh, Director of Education, Uttar Pradesh.