Kerala government doles out sops ahead of local polls

Thiruvananthapuram, June 14 (IANS) The Left Democratic Front government in Kerala has begun doling out sops like advance payment of pensions to woo the voters ahead of the local bodies elections in September.

Finance Minister Thomas Isaac told reporters here Monday that he was setting aside Rs.400 crore which would be utilized to give all pensions in advance.

‘Currently there are no outstanding and we have planned in such a manner that all pensions would be paid in advance till September. We will pay this at the end of July and it would benefit them because Onam season would begin then,’ said Isaac.

In the budget presented early this year, he had hiked the minimum pension to Rs.300.

‘In all 17.5 lakh families will benefit and this includes 3.3 lakh unemployed, five lakh farmers and 4.50 lakh who get widow pension, besides those who get pension from the various welfare funds,’ he said.

The previous Congress government had demitted office without paying pension arrears of 18 months.

‘We will take credit for what we have done and we want to make good at the local bodies poll. Is there anything wrong in that?,’ asked Isaac.

He said 43,000 people got government jobs last year, up from 20,000 the year before.

‘Canards are being propagated by vested interests that we have not done anything for providing jobs. 35,000 vacancies have been reported in the last year and in the last four years we created 24,700 new posts. The previous Congress government cut 13,000 posts,’ Isaac said.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front came to power, winning a resounding victory in the 2006 assembly polls. Since then it has suffered electoral reverses, first in the 2009 Lok Sabha and then at the three assembly by-elections. It has also lost ground at the local bodies level where by-elections were held.

Elections to local bodies are scheduled to take place in September and with the model code of conduct expected shortly, Isaac appears to have played it safe by announcing payment of pension in advance, which has not happened before.

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