People in all corners of the country have heard of the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (Nyay), Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday.
“Nyay kone kone tak pahunch chuki hai,” he said at a press conference when asked if the minimum income guarantee scheme, with which the Congress proposes to fire up the economy if voted to power, had got any traction. Under the scheme, ~ 72,000 a year would be transferred to bank accounts of women members of the country’s 20% poorest families.
Gandhi’s confidence is, however, belied by what HT discovered in late April on a trip from Meerut in west Uttar Pradesh to Varanasi in the eastern part of the state. Not only was there a general lack of awareness about the scheme, it didn’t appear to have resonated with the few who had heard about it.
In Khatauli, a small town in Muzaffarnagar district about 100 km from Delhi, Chandrashekar Kumar is a daily-wage earner at a brick kiln. “What is Nyay?” he asked. When told about the scheme, he said, “~72,000? I don’t think it is possible to implement such a scheme. The current government said ~6000 per year will be given, some have received ~2000 in their accounts. I haven’t even got that.” Many others in the same area, too, had not heard about Nyay.
In Congress bastion Rae Bareli, from where Sonia Gandhi has filed her nomination, Jatin Yadav runs a small food stall near the party karyalaya (office) on Kutchery Road. “I have not heard of Nyay, but an entire generation of my family has voted for the Congress,” he said.
A huge board with the face of the Congress’s local unit chief, Jagdish Shukla, greets visitors at the office entrance along with a collage of party stalwarts Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Sonia Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. But there was not much publicity for the scheme.
About 1 km away, at the party’s main office Tilak Bhawan, there was little publicity for Nyay. There was a small board with the Congress symbol at the main door. The district president of the party, VK Shukla, said, “We are conducting multiple meetings and allotting areas among ourselves to do door-to-door campaigning on Nyay. Rahul ji has waived farmers’ loans in three states. People know he does what he says.”
In Sultanpur, about two hours away, 18-year-old Rihan Yasir, a first time voter, had a different view. “Where will they get the kind of money to give Rs 72,000 to everyone? They have said only 20% of the poorest families but there are more people who come below the poverty line. Such promises are only made for elections,” he said.
In Amethi constituency, the party’s main office in Gauriganj too didn’t promote the scheme. On its wall was painted the slogan – “Amethi ka MP, 2019 ka PM” (Amethi’s MP, 2019’s PM).
The Congress data analytics head, Praveen Chakravarthy, said there was no mass campaign for Nyay. “As a programme, Nyay is a targeted one. The party is reaching out to potential beneficiaries directly,” he said.
In Uttar Pradesh’s Fatehpur Sikri, Rahul Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had launched a plan to publicise the scheme calling it “Nyay Yatra”.
The Congress planned to deploy buses equipped with state-of-the-art communication equipment phase by phase to tom-tom its achievements.
Along the Grand Trunk Road, the national highway towards Aligarh, an e-rickshaw equipped with loud speakers announces details of the scheme. Soni Verma, a roadside vendor selling corn, said, “This began from yesterday. Before this, not many were aware of it. Let’s see what happens. It will be hard to get traction now.”
In Chandapur village, which lies next to the Prime Minister’s adopted village Jayapur in Varanasi district, Vanita Kumari, a 20-year-old labourer at the local brick kiln said she had not heard of Nyay. “We need pukka makaan, water and good roads,” she said.
“Outreach has not been good,” a senior Congress leader in the party’s Lucknow headquarters said, requesting not to be named.
“It could have been our Brahmastra (trump card) but it was not used properly. We are running TV ads and jingles but the ~72,000 per year bit, which was the main substance, got lost somewhere. We are trying to create some buzz with the advertising,” he said.
At the launch of the party manifesto, the Congress had said that its 2019 Lok Sabha campaign would be a “360-degree cross platform campaign”, involving cinema spots, radio jingles, out-ofhome hoardings and digital screens, print advertisements and social media campaigns.
“Nyay Yatra’s concept was that we will send the buses phase wise. So we load it with 100-150 workers and send it across constituencies. The other idea was to make big leaders sit in those buses and send them to battlegrounds or swing assembly constituencies. Where they go and distribute pamphlets with prominent Congress promises on one side and details about Nyay on the other. The issue is that it is a bit late for the outreach and the problem is we do not have enough human and financial resources,” the leader quoted above said.
According to Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the Congress has not been able to get the kind of traction it had expected from the scheme.
“One issue is that it came a little late and Congress did not have sufficient time to campaign for it. There is a constant problem for the party that they do not have the kind of communication skills their opponents BJP have to be able to woo the voters. When you rule the country for a long time, trust deficit is another factor that you face with schemes like these,” he said.
(With inputs from Amrita Madhukalya)
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