The Aadhaar scheme, touted as ‘gamechanger’ by the UPA government, ended up hurting the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls, said outgoing Union food and consumer affairs minister KV Thomas.
“The Aadhaar initiative, and the objective of linking welfare schemes with it, didn’t find favour with the people. The decision was not appreciated by voters,” Thomas told HT on the eve of the Congress Working Committee meeting on Monday, where the party is expected to deliberate on the reasons behind the loss in the Lok Sabha polls.
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The government also made bad moves by decontrolling fuel prices, capping subsidized LPG cylinders, and not enacting the food security law in time for people to feel its impact, the Congress leader added.
Thomas is one of the few Congress ministers to have won in the recently-concluded Lok Sabha elections, where the Congress slumped to its worst-ever tally of 44 seats, down from 206 in the outgoing Lok Sabha. The food minister’s winning margin of 87,047 votes in Ernakulam was the largest for a Congress candidate in his home state of Kerala.
The Aadhaar scheme, which linked social-sector benefits and subsidies to a unique identification card, was marketed with catchy slogans like “Aap ka paisa, aap ke haath”, in the hope of rich electoral dividends.
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The UPA government was using the Aadhaar platform for direct transfer of subsidies but the move got stuck after the Supreme Court in March ordered that the scheme cannot be made mandatory for availing government welfare benefits. BJP president Rajnath Singh had earlier said his party would review the scheme, if voted to power.
Thomas also blamed policies like “letting the oil companies decide fuel prices” for the drubbing received by the Congress party.
The decision to limit the number of subsidised LPG gas cylinders to 12 a year — which was nine initially before Rahul Gandhi intervened—was also an unpopular decision, Thomas opined.
When asked why the food security bill — the biggest welfare scheme of UPA II — proved to be a dampener, Thomas said “the scheme should have been rolled out earlier”.
“Of course, the right to food has had it resonance. But the issue is that the people wouldn’t respond to it in electoral terms unless they start getting its benefits. I wish we were able to roll out the scheme earlier,” the minister said.