BJP starts seriously considering the Old Pension Scheme for poll-bound Karnataka, the only southern state under its rule.

NEW DELHI: Even as the Rajasthan Government’s decision to revive the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) threatens to ruin BJP’s polls prospects in the election-bound states, the saffron party has been forced to consider the scheme for the states under its rule. With this scheme bound to be a big poll issue, the BJP-ruled Karnataka is sending a team to Rajasthan’s capital Jaipur on 25 March to understand the nitty-gritty of the OPS. The team members will be discussing its various aspects with the officials of the Rajasthan government. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have been critical of the OPS. The central party leadership has been of the view that the OPS is a burden on the economy.
Undoubtedly, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s decision to revive the OPS has become an albatross around the BJP’s neck. The BJP may have won polls in two out of three North East states recently, but the road ahead in other poll-bound states is not easy for it. It is a tough task for the BJP to retain power in the only southern state Karnataka where it is in power. At the same time, the party might find the going tough in states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh which will go to polls in November this year. The Congress had won the 2018 elections in these states promising loan waiver for farmers. However, the BJP managed to form its government in Karnataka in 2019 and in MP in 2020 by way of allegedly engineering defections in the ruling parties there. Madhya Pradesh witnessed fall of the Congress’ regime following Jyotiraditya Scindia parting ways with the ruling party allegedly at the behest of the BJP. There, BJP formed the government with Shivraj Singh Chouhan as Chief Minister. There were similar attempts in Rajasthan as well. But Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s alertness thwarted the alleged “Operation Lotus”. It was for the first time in the political history of the country that a party state president (Sachin Pilot) got involved in the “conspiracy” of toppling his own party’s government. Pilot was sacked as PCC chief after this operation soon thereafter.
Later, Gehlot consolidated his position, launching various schemes which became big political and electoral issues. His management of the pandemic Covid-19 brought him laurels internationally. The CM revived OPS in the 2022 budget, a move which was cheered by the government employees who had got jobs after 2004. In addition to this, Gehlot’s schemes such as Chiranjeevi Swasthya Yojana, loan waiver for farmers, free power to farmers and common man, regularisation of jobs, urban employment guarantee, etc., gave a fresh breath of life to Congress. These schemes are a big hit in other states as well. The Gehlot government is hopeful of retaining power in Rajasthan due to these schemes.
Some non-BJP states like Punjab and Jharkhand also started implementing OPS. Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh also implemented OPS. This scheme played a crucial role in Congress’ victory in Himachal Pradesh which has also implemented OPS. The defeat in Himachal was a big jolt to BJP. After this, the BJP strategists do not want to take any risk.
The ruling party BJP is said to be on a rocky road in Karnataka. The opposition would try to capitalise on internal fights in saffron camp, and anti-incumbency sentiments prevailing in Karnataka. However, PM Modi has himself taken charge of the poll campaign in the southern state. Former CM B.S. Yediyurappa has also been given a lead role in the campaign. But the OPS worries refuse to die down.
Government employees are raising demand for the OPS’ revival, which is adding to pressure on the BJP-ruled states such as Haryana and MP. Karnataka will go to polls in May, while elections will be held in MP in November this year. BJP strategists are of the view that if the party loses in Karnataka, then winning MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will be a much tougher task.
The Congress governments’ decisions are creating a positive impact in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The grand old party has tried to make Gehlot’s schemes like OPS a big poll issue in MP and Karnataka. Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has assured the university teachers of considering the OPS. CM Gehlot’s decision to provide gas cylinders for Rs 500 each under Ujjwala Yojana has also become popular in these states. So, the BJP, which was against OPS and other schemes announced by Gehlot, has now been forced to consider them.