Will BJP need to rethink its strategy on Old Pension Scheme?

Niraj Sharma
New Update
Narendra Modi Prime Minister BJP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (File photo)

New Delhi: The reintroduction of the Old Pension Scheme for government employees is starting to become a major headache for the Bharatiya Janata Party. Days after BJP’s Haryana ally, Jannayak Janta Party expressed its desire for Old Pension Scheme implementation in the state, the saffron unit’s ally in Maharashtra, Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena, is also expressing views aiming to revert to the old regime soon.

With two of its crucial allies in states, where BJP doesn’t have a clear majority to continue in government on its own, the saffron front may soon need to fine-tune its strategy on the implementation of OPS for government employees.

Speaking at a rally in Thane, chief minister of Maharashtra Eknath Shinde this week stated that the state education department is researching the old pension plan and that the state government is "positive" about implementing the plan for teachers and other public servants in Maharashtra.

This clearly indicates that another ally of the BJP is having a rethink on the issue and wants a relook at the National Pension Scheme or its remodelling to help ensure that government employees are not angered ahead of crucial polls.

Shinde’s comments came days after similar reservations were expressed by Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala on the reintroduction of OPS for government employees.

The move by the allies of the BJP seems to be prompted by the recent loss of the saffron unit in Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls. The restoration of the OPS was one of the key promises extended by the Congress party during recent and widely hailed as an issue that has helped the grand old party. The Congress governments in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan too have restored OPS for their respective government employees.

With the upcoming crucial state Assembly and Lok Sabha 2024 polls, the BJP government may be staring at trouble with its alliance partners in different parts of the country unless it is willing to rethink on the issue.

Sources stated that Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s comments regarding the implementation of OPS for government employees have been noted by the BJP's top leadership. The party is expected to have a detailed discussion on the National Pension Scheme with the ally and a decision on its future course of action is likely soon, sources added.

The BJP allies feel that the OPS is turning out to be an issue related to the masses and could damage its vote share if it isn’t addressed swiftly, sources said. It was also feared that if the implementation of OPS becomes an issue ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the alliance could face a major reversal of voting pattern.

Government employees and pensioners are a significant and powerful chunk of the vote bank in Maharashtra.

It is also believed that Congress is likely to promise OPS to voters across the nation and make it an electoral issue ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. This could spell trouble for the BJP and its allies as OPS implementation is turning out to be an emotive issue, which is causing a major voter shift, sources said.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to seek a third term in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Maharashtra is a key state in BJP’s strategic plan and the saffron unit can ill afford to lose the crucial state.

Maharashtra, one of the biggest states in the country, elects 48 MPs to the Lok Sabha and is a high priority for the BJP ahead of the 2024 polls.

With BJP aiming to improve its tally of 23 seats won in 2019. The party aims to wrest seats from its former ally Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena, which had secured 18 seats riding on the back of a strong Modi wave in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.