Mulayam blames SP poll debacle on laptop scheme

 Six months after his party was almost wiped out in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav attributed the loss to the free laptop scheme, a brainchild of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. It was claimed that the scheme had catapulted the SP to power in the 2012 Assembly polls.

“The laptops the government distributed caused us a huge electoral loss. The boys saw and heard Narendra Modi on the laptops provided by us and were influenced,” said Mulayam at the SP women's wing national convention here on Monday. The Akhilesh government had launched its ambitious free laptop and tablet scheme with much fanfare in 2012.

Then, apparently realising that populist schemes could bring votes only in the short run and were also a drain on the state exchequer, adversely impacting the financial health of the cash-starved state, Akhilesh, in his 2014-15 budget, had shelved it. However, the scheme made a comeback later with some changes and on a very small scale.

Mulayam's candid admission only reflected what many of his party leaders had been saying since the polls about the party's loss. The SP, which had won 21 seats from the state in the 2009 elections, could manage only five this time. Barring members of the Yadav family, all were humbled at the hustings.

After the debacle, senior SP leader and UP minister Gayatri Prajapati had said the scheme must be shelved as it had not been able to fetch the votes of the youths. Since 2012, the UP government had distributed lakhs of laptops to students at a cost of hundreds of crores to the state.

According to official figures, a whopping Rs 2,800 crore was spent on the distribution of free 15 lakh laptops in 2012.  Though an allocation of Rs 2,700 crore had been made for the scheme in the 2013-14 budget, no laptops were distributed.

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