Sensing a 'game-changer' that can hold the key to the next Lok Sabha election for the Congress party general secretary Rahul Gandhi threw his weight on the UPA government's direct cash transfer-rechristened as direct benefits transfer (DBT)-on Friday.
In a special meeting convened at party's 'war room' here, Gandhi told party brass that he will provide his full political support and travel to any of the 51 districts where the DBT is set to launch from the beginning of next year.
Taking a cue, finance minister P Chidambaram announced that he would personally visit the bank branches in some of these districts to remove bottlenecks after several leaders flagged the lack of beneficiary accounts and branches in target areas.
Apart from Gandhi and Chidambaram, the meeting was attended by rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, UID chief Nandan Nilekani, Congress in-charge and party unit presidents of all 18 states and district presidents of the party from 51 DBT-target districts.
In the meeting, Gandhi also asked the party to highlight that the DBT is one of those big ideas that Congress' has a history of delivering to the country. "Others only talk about problems, we try to provide solutions," Gandhi told the audience while several district leaders reportedly asked the party brass to involve the local leadership during the reviews and tours related to the DBT to ensure political involvement. A FAQ on the scheme was also provided to the leaders.
"The DBT will go a long way to check corruption. Within a minute it can be checked if the beneficiary got his money or not," party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said.
"Multiple banking correspondents (BC) will operate in one area. This competition will also check corruption. Rs 5,000 crore will be spent as commissions to distribute Rs three lakh crore of cash transfer," Ramesh added.
Acknowledging that lackluster attitude of the banks to open no-frills accounts for the poor beneficiaries remains one of the major concerns for the ambitious scheme, Dwivedi added, "we will tell the banks that they just can't stop any person from opening account if he has a Aadhar card."
Giving a fillip to the party's initiative, Ramesh pointed out that several opposition-ruled states have also supported the schemes and some even demanded its expansion. "The government is doing its work. Today, the organization started its job," Ramesh said making clear that the party intends to highlight the ambitious scheme as a major project ahead of the polls.
He also added that Rahul Gandhi reiterated that the scheme that has attracted the party's slogan 'aapka paisa, aapke haath' will be a major game-changer.
Meanwhile, the BJP cautioned the centre against taking political mileage from the DBT by pitching it as a Congress scheme. The principal opposition party pointed out that the Election Commission has also warned the government for announcing the details of the scheme ahead of the Gujarat polls.
"There has been no effect on Congress of the Election Commission's orders. It is going ahead with the policy despite warnings from the Commission. There are polls in Gujarat. This money is the taxpayers' money, including that belonging to the people of Gujarat," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.