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Lok Sabha elections 2019| Nyay doable, will never lie to the people: Rahul

Congress president Rahul Gandhi contrasted the Congress’s promise with that made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 election campaign when he said he would bring back black money stashed away abroad by Indians and distribute it among citizens.

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 28, 2019 00:22 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,NYAY,Congress
Congress President Rahul Gandhi is garlanded by party members during the All India Congress Committee (AICC) OBC National Convention, at Indira Gandhi Stadium, in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday.(HT Photo )

Justifying the minimum income guarantee scheme promised by the Congress as an ethical crusade to root out poverty, former Union finance minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said the grand old party, if it comes to power, would roll out the initiative in phases to cover 50 million poor families, describing it as “doable” given the size of the economy and the spinoffs it would generate

In New Delhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi contrasted the Congress’s promise with that made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 election campaign when he said he would bring back black money stashed away abroad by Indians and distribute it among citizens.

“Modi said he will give ~15 lakh in each account, he lied. We said it is not possible to give ~15 lakh, we will never lie to you. We will say the truth. We’ll give 20% of the country’s poorest families ~3, 60,000 in the next five years,” Gandhi said at the Congress’s Other Backward Class (OBC) national convention in New Delhi.

The Nyunatam Aay Yojna (Nyay), promised by the Congress, which said it would give an annual ~72,000 to the poorest of Indian families, has drawn flak from leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its backers, who said it would cause the fiscal deficit to balloon and land government finances in a mess. Chidambaram argued on Wednesday that it was indeed feasible.

“We have the determination and confidence to implement the scheme as it is a doable programme like the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), given the size and scale of the country’s economy and the revenue of both the Central and state governments,” he told journalists at the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee headquarters, Sathyamurthy Bhavan, in Chennai.

Chidambaram was non-committal when asked if fresh taxes would be needed to bankroll the ambitious scheme. He said existing targeted socio-economic programmes to address poverty would not be done away with.

The former finance minister said the minimum income guarantee was not a freebie but a moral and ethical necessity, as Congress president Rahul Gandhi had said, to launch a frontal attack on poverty. The Congress manifesto to be released on April 2, would have more details on the Nyay scheme, he added.

On its implementation, Chidambaram cleared the air, saying: “Every month, a standard Rs 6,000 will be directly deposited into the bank account of a woman in the beneficiary’s family. We will insist that bank account be opened in the name of women in the beneficiaries’ families to avail of the benefit.” He said 50 million families or 250 million individuals would benefit from the scheme.

Chidambaram said even when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government announced MGNREGA , present finance minister Arun Jaitley had questioned its feasibility.

“But we accomplished that successfully and the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government too is continuing it, with the Prime Minister himself saying that it is the best way to address rural poverty,” he said.

To a question on Jaitley dismissing Nyay as a bluff, he retorted: “Mr Finance Minister, I would like to ask whether you support this or not, yes or no?”

Responding to a question, he denied that former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan had dismissed the scheme as unworkable. “Raghuram Rajan had said that this had to be carefully worked out and implemented,” Chidambaram said.

Answering questions on the financial implications of implementing the scheme, Chidambaram explained that it would not be a huge burden.

“Our calculations show that it will not cross 2% of the GDP. At any point of time, it will be 1.8%. Ahead of its implementation, an expert committee will be set up and it will design it at every stage. We will consult the committee before we move to the next stage

First Published: Mar 28, 2019 00:22 IST