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Cong falls back on Indira

The UPA government has resurrected the 'Garibi hatao' slogan that helped Indira Gandhi sweep the 1971 general elections with a two-thirds majority.

india Updated: Oct 06, 2006 19:26 IST

Resurrects Garibi hatao, 20-point plan
The UPA government has resurrected the 'Garibi hatao' slogan that helped Indira Gandhi sweep the 1971 general elections with a two-thirds majority.

On Thursday, the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the restructuring of the 20-point programme (TPP) -- initiated by Indira Gandhi in 1975 - to make it relevant to the 21st century "with particular reference to economic reforms, liberalisation and globalisation of the Indian economy".

While doing so, it replaced "Garibi Unmoolan" (Poverty Alleviation) -- as the first point of the revised TPP  initially read --  with "Garibi Hatao" (Eradicate Poverty) for its political and historical value, not to mention the directness of its message.

Information and Broadcasting Minister P.R. Dasmunsi said the Garibi Hatao call would reflect the content and objective of the government's anti-poverty programmes better.

The changes in the TPP will come into force from April next year, almost coinciding with the election campaigns in Punjab, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh.

Dasmunsi said the repackaged 20-point programme would make a difference. The new TPP is a mix of social-sector schemes and initiatives whose implementation will be closely monitored to ensure that the benefits reach the targeted sections.

The decision is intended to accommodate the concerns of the common man, and send out a clear signal that the Congress is serious about implementing the promises in its manifesto as well as the points contained in the CMP. The shift in focus hopes to erase the impression that the Left alone is the saviour of the weak and the downtrodden.

Reviving the slogan also eliminates any possibility of the UPA government making the mistake of its predecessor the  NDA, which created the perception that "India was shining only for the rich and affluent".

The introduction of the 20-point programme in its new avatar is also seen as an extension of the original 20-point programme initiated during Indira Gandhi's tenure in the mid-Seventies, but recasting it to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Old-timers like M.L. Fotedar, who was a key aide to Indira Gandhi, recall that "there were 100 points and the party had decided to take 20 points at a time.

Fresh points in the agenda were introduced during Rajiv Gandhi's tenure. It is very heartening that the emphasis continues to be on improving the lot of the weaker sections. It will lead to social equality and justice".

Although it was Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi — who had been a Youth Congress leader when Indira Gandhi coined the original slogan — announced its adoption this time, there were enough indications during the
Nainital Conclave of the Congress chief ministers recently that the party wanted to maintain a balance between reforms on one hand and the concern for the weaker sections on the other.

The new points, which will be upgraded versions of the original points of the 1970s, will come into force during the next financial year.

The announcement itself is the first real indicator of the Congress (and the UPA) preparing for the next round of elections to be held early next year. Fotedar recalled that when Indira Gandhi abolished the privy purses and nationalised the banks, her then principal secretary P.N. Haksar had said that "she was fighting the second war of independence".

The idea behind the slogan was to bring about social equality. After facing resistance from princes to her abolition of their privileges, she gave the call: "Woh kehte hain Indira hatao, main kehti hoon garibi hatao".

R.K. Dhawan, another long-time aide of the former prime minister, commenting on the cabinet decision said, "This only shows that the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family are committed to the welfare of the weaker sections. This concern for the poor people had derailed for some time and the Congress, by bringing its essence back, has made a strong case for standing up for issues that concern the poor and weaker sections of society."