Kejriwal Govt Delivers Delhi Budget with ‘Ram Rajya’ Theme, Cash Transfers to Women, Indicating How AAP Plans to Counter BJP in Polls – News18

As the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government presented its tenth and final budget ahead of the 2024 general elections and the 2025 Delhi assembly polls, there were a few standout factors — the leitmotif of Ram, couplets from the epic Ramcharitmanas, vision of Ram Rajya, and the promise of giving Rs 1,000 per month to every woman in the capital who is not a beneficiary of any government pension, does not hold a government job, or is an income tax payer.

Speaking to reporters, Kejriwal said, “We believe in Ram Rajya.” The chief minister also said that this is not the first time that the government has taken Ram Rajya as a reference point, with now-jailed former minister Manish Sisodia mentioning it before.

Atishi, presenting her first budget, quoted a couplet from the Ramcharitmanas: “Ram Raj nabhages sunu sacharachar jag mahi, kaal karm subhav gun krutu dukh kahu hi nahi (In the reign of Lord Ram, sorrow arising from time, action, nature, and qualities do not befall anyone.” She said that her government has been working hard for nine years to realise the dream of Ram Rajya in Delhi.

Atishi said that under the leadership of Kejriwal, the government has been toiling to bring prosperity in Delhi like in Ayodhya during the rule of Lord Ram. Citing education as the primary instrument to eradicate poverty, Arvind Kejriwal, in 2015, made it his ‘rajdharma’.

Going a step further, the Delhi finance minister compared Kejriwal to Lord Ram himself. “Just as Lord Ram always kept his word despite the many challenges, including that of a fourteen-year vanvaas, Kejriwal also persists in work despite the numerous obstacles placed in his path,” she said.

AAP posted its budget highlights on social media with the hashtag #Kejriwalkaramrajya.

The strategy many believe is AAP’s way of conveying to the people that the BJP does not have any ‘monopoly’ over Ram. AAP, in stark contrast to many of its allies in the INDIA bloc, unabashedly draws on Lord Ram, Hanuman, and the epic Ramayana to echo majoritarian sentiment.

Targeting women voters, the next big poll pitch in the Delhi budget was the announcement of the Mukhya Mantri Mahila Samman Yojana. Terming it the world’s biggest women’s empowerment programme, Kejriwal said, “Now, in Delhi, women above the age of 18 will get 1,000 rupees per month. Every month, they will have 1,000 rupees deposited in their accounts.”

After free electricity of up to 200 units, free water up to 20,000 litres, free pilgrimage for the elderly, free bus rides for women, this is AAP’s biggest calling card. In fact, in the run-up to the Punjab elections in 2022 also, AAP had appealed to women voters with direct cash transfers. Direct cash transfers to women has been a consistent ‘Kejriwal guarantee ‘ in every assembly election since.

The chief minister though clarified that three categories will be exempted: those who are enjoying a government pension, government job holders, and income tax payers will not be eligible for this scheme. To simplify the process, the claimants will have to give a self-declaration. Kejriwal argued that putting money directly into the accounts of women will not just lead to their empowerment but also fuel demand and spur the economic growth of the capital.

According to the government’s estimate, of the approximately 67 lakh women voters in Delhi, around 50 lakh would be eligible for the Mukhya Mantri Mahila Samman Yojana. Since the announcement of the dates of the general elections is expected soon, the model code of conduct will be imposed, so this scheme will be brought into the cabinet after the elections are over and notified after that.

However, AAP does expect to reap the benefits of this announcement even in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Kejriwal said, “Why should the vote bank not shift? It should. I have announced. Everyone knows that Kejriwal delivers on his promises. If I have said this, I will do it.”

Pointing out that Delhiites have given landslide victories to AAP twice in the state assembly but have not reposed trust in the party when it comes to parliamentary elections, Kejriwal appealed to Delhiites to make seven candidates of the INDIA bloc win and strengthen his hands. “Now, I am fighting alone, whether it is with the L-G, the BJP, or the central government. So, what did Delhiites get after giving seven MP seats to the BJP? The people of Delhi got nothing. In fact, this was counterproductive. Whenever they stalled our work, these MPs clapped. This is wrong. I want to tell Delhiites that if you give these 7 MPs to the INDIA front, then these will act as 7 hands for me, they will be my strength. Next time, we will get 7 MPs from Delhi, 13 from Punjab, 10 we have in the Rajya Sabha — we will have 25 to 30 MPs. Then, no one will have the courage to stall the work of Delhiites. I am asking this from Delhiites today. When you go to ask for votes, think of Delhi, think of strengthening Kejriwal’s hands,” he said.

Later the same evening, the party met stakeholders to brainstorm on the strategy for the constituencies that AAP will fight on as part of the INDIA bloc. Reacting to the Bharatiya Janata Party dropping five of its seven present MPs in the national capital for the Lok Sabha polls, the chief minister said, “BJP is scared. Someone was saying that BJP has changed candidates in those seats where AAP has put up candidates. In Assam, they have replaced candidates in those constituencies where AAP is fighting. In Delhi also they have changed candidates where AAP has put up candidates. Now let’s see who they put in Kurukshetra and Gujarat.”

Asked whether this is the last budget before the next assembly elections, the three-time Delhi chief minister responded, “Looks like”, to which Atishi, sitting by his side, said, “We are confident also, hopeful also, that we will present the next five budgets.” The AAP convener responded to Atishi, remarking wryly, “Unless they declare Delhi as a full UT.”