The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh plans to continue free ration distribution to all 15 crore beneficiaries in the state.
Earlier, the Chief Minister had announced that the free ration scheme would continue till March 2022.
The free ration distribution turned out to be a major issue in the recently concluded Assembly polls in which the BJP retained power in the state.
The scheme was launched last December for four months. The beneficiaries received packed 1 kg of whole chana, 1 litre of edible oil, 1 kg of salt once every month, apart from 5 kg of wheat/rice per unit (family member) per month through the network of 80,000 fairprice shops under the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The Antyodaya or the poorest families were entitled to 35 kg of wheat/rice per ration card irrespective of number of units or the size of the family, apart from getting other commodities.
"A proposal for the continuation of the same scheme is under active consideration at the government level and a proposal in this regard is likely to be put up at the very first cabinet meeting after formation of the new government," said a senior governmentofficial.
The free food distribution scheme that cost the exchequer around Rs 4800 crore in four months is believed to have paid rich electoral dividends to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party by helping it get the absolute majority in the recently concluded elections.
It is for the first time in 37 years that any political party has returned to power for a second consecutive term in the state.
"By continuing the scheme, the party also wants to give a message to the Opposition that was trying to confuse voters by constantly telling them during campaigning that the free food distribution would end after elections, sensing the free ration was a big issue," the official said.
Sources in the BJP also said that the possibility of the Yogi government continuing the free ration till the 2024 Lok Sabha elections could not be ruled out though it was yet not clear as to how long the scheme would continue once it is extended beyond March this year.
The Parliamentary elections are due in early 2024. Uttar Pradesh alone accounts for 80 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha.