Just hours after Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised an income guarantee scheme , Finance Minister Arun Jaitley put out his counter to what the Congress has described as a “final assault on poverty”. Jaitley added up the expenditure incurred by the government on the ongoing welfare schemes to argue that the Narendra Modi government’s welfare benefits to people averaged Rs 1,06,800 annually, as against the Rs 72,000 that the Congress seeks to promise.
The finance minister said the government had annually paid out Rs 5.34 lakh crore under various welfare schemes and subsidies for food, fertilizers, farmers and Ayushman Bharat. “If the Congress Party’s announcement is tested on simple arithmetic, Rs.72,000 for five crore families works out to be Rs.3.6 lakh crore, which is less than 2/3rd of what is being given,” Jaitley said in a blog.
Jaitley made a similar point at a press conference later where he also accused the Congress of repackaging schemes.
Watch| BJP alleges ‘bluff & fraud’ after Cong minimum income promise
In his press conference, Jaitley said that the Congress party “has a history of bluff arguments” and cited the loan waivers the party had promised and Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Karnataka, saying that those promises remain unfulfilled in most places.
“The party has legacy of slogans with no resources. It has a history of bluff announcements. Karnataka has spent only Rs 2600 crore, Madhya Pradesh Rs 3000 crore and Punjab Rs 5500 crore,” Jaitley said.
Jaitley went on to list out a bunch of schemes which the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre had implemented and under which Rs 5.34 lakh crore was being transferred directly to people’s accounts. “The above averages Rs 1,06,800 annually as against Rs 72,000 which is the Congress now seeks to promise through the DBT mechanism,” he said.
Saying that if other schemes are also added to the list, then it would provide several thousands of crores more to the poor, he said, “The Congress’s proposal comes to Rs 3.6 lakh crore, which is less than 2/3rd of what is being given by the Narendra Modi government.”
He said that the Congress had misled the country on the issue of poverty for 50 years. “Even after giving that slogan (gareebi hatao), if today you think that 20% people don’t even have an income of Rs 12,000, then the cross hangs on your neck for letting down poor of the country,” he said.
The sharp attack came soon after Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hit out at the opposition party for its “anti-poor” stance for decades. “This showing of false dream to the people of India is not going to cut any ice because the Congress record of 55 years has always been anti-poor,” said Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Rolling out the scheme, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said the scheme would cover 5 crore families and benefit nearly 25 crore people. The Congress chief insisted that the plan was “fiscally prudent” and implementable.
The BJP drew comparisons with Indira Gandhi’s “Garibi Hatao” in 1971, and said not much has changed since then.
“Today, Rahul Gandhi announced Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme. Indira Gandhi had raised slogan of ‘Gareebi Hatao’ in 1971. We thought poverty had been removed but nothing happened. Rajiv Gandhi was PM, he said I send Re 1 from Delhi and only 15 paise reaches villages,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Back in January, Rahul Gandhi had announced the guarantee scheme but hadn’t spelt out its broad contours. The government’s think-tank NITI Aayog had then run down the plan, declaring that India neither had the kind of fiscal space, nor the kind of complete data needed to implement such a scheme.
The income guarantee plan fits with Rahul Gandhi’s campaign pitch that targets Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP, accusing them of working for the rich.
“This country has one flag. The prime minister’s politics creates two Indias,” he said.
The scheme will be called “Nyay” – Nyoontam Aay Yojana or Minimum Income Scheme – or justice, he said, adding that it would be rolled out in phases.
The scheme is widely seen as a version of universal basic income (UBI), a concept that entitles families to a certain threshold sum of money regardless of whether they work or not.
Mar 25, 2019 19:15 IST
‘Bluff announcement’: Arun Jaitley on Congress’s Rs 12K income poll promise – Hindustan Times