'Laptop scheme behind SP defeat'

Six months after his party was almost wiped out in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections, Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav admitted that behind the loss were the ‘laptops’, a brainchild of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

“The laptops that the government distributed caused us a huge electoral loss. The boys saw and heard Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the laptops provided by us and were influenced,” Mulayam said while speaking at the SP women’s wing national convention here on Monday.

Mulayam’s candid admission only reflected what many of his party leaders had been saying since the Lok Sabha polls results about the reasons behind party’s loss.
The SP, which had 21 seats in the 2009 general elections from the state, could win only five in 2014. Barring the members of the Mulayam family, all others were humbled at the hustings.

“I had told Akhilesh about it,” the SP supremo went on to add. The Akhilesh government, which had launched its ambitious free laptop and tablet scheme with much fanfare in 2012, had all but abolished the same after the humiliating loss. It however made a comeback with some changes on a very small scale later.

The scheme was the brainchild of Akhilesh and it was claimed that it had catapulted his Samajwadi Party (SP) to power in 2012 Assembly polls.

After the poll debacle, senior SP leader and UP minister Gayatri Prajapati had said that the free laptop and tablet scheme must be shelved as they had not been able to fetch votes of youths to the party.

Apparently, realising that the 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 Budget for the financial year 2014-15, shelved the free laptop and tablet scheme.

Since 2012, the UP government had distributed lakh of laptops to the students and it cost the cash-strapped state hundreds of crores.

Official figures say a whopping Rs 2,800 crore had been spent on distribution of free laptops in 2012 with 15 lakh laptops distributed.

Though an allocation of Rs 2,700 crore had been made for the scheme in the Budget for 2013-14, no laptops were distributed in the previous financial year.

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