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‘Won’t raise income tax’: Rahul Gandhi defends NYAY with a jab on PM Modi

At an election rally in Kerala, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said PM Modi’s claim that middle class will be taxed to fund NYAY is wrong.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 16, 2019 17:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Pathanamthitta, Kerala
Rahul Gandhi,Lok sabha elections,Wayanad
Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressing an election rally ahead of second phase of the Lok Sabha polls.(AFP)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is misleading the middle class over his party’s poll promise of providing cash support to the poor families. Gandhi said if the Congress is voted to power, it will not hike the income tax rates to fund the minimum income guarantee scheme.

Gandhi, who was addressing an election rally in Kerala, said, “Mr Narendra Modi says that the money for the NYAY scheme is going to come from the middle class. But I want to make it clear to the middle class of Kerala and the country, you are the engine of India’s growth. We are not going to take a single rupee from the pocket of middle class. The income taxes will not be raised at all.”

“Mr Narendra Modi gave Rs 35,000 to Nirav Modi, Rs 35,000 to Mehul Choksi, Rs 30,000 to Anil Ambani, to Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi…These are the people who are going to pay for NYAY,” said Gandhi, who is contesting from Wayanad apart from Amethi Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh.

Gandhi was addressing the public rally in Pathanamthitta, which was recently at the centre of the Sabarimala controversy following a Supreme Court order allowing entry of women of all age groups in the Lord Ayyappa shrine. The Sabarimala shrine is situated in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, which goes to the polls for all 20 Lok Sabha seats in the third phase of the parliamentary polls on April 23.

The Congress has promised to roll out Nyuntam Aay Yojana or NYAY, a minimum income guarantee scheme for the poorest 20 per cent families of the country. Gandhi has been leading the Congress campaign with the promise of rolling out NYAY if the party forms the next government at the Centre after the Lok Sabha polls that ends on May 19.

Going by the records of the latest socio-economic census, the NYAY could benefit about five crore poorest families. The Congress has said that there could 25 crore individual beneficiaries under the NYAY scheme. The BJP, on the other hand, dismissed the scheme as poll gimmick with PM Modi calling it an “admission” by the Congress of “committing injustice” during its previous regimes.

Gandhi said he chose Wayanad Lok Sabha seat to send a message that the “idea of other people” should be respected. “View me as a brother in your heart,” the Congress president told the crowd gathered to listen to his speech adding, “Your spirit, your spirit to look at the things is a guide to the rest of the world.”

Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency goes to the polls on April 23 along with 19 other parliamentary constituencies in Kerala. Votes will be counted on May 23. Wayanad has been a Congress bastion in Kerala, where the CPM-led Left Front is in power since 2016.

On NYAY, Gandhi said, “We are going to give Rs 72,000 every year directly into the five crore bank accounts, Rs 3.60 lakh in five years. We are going to do a surgical strike on poverty. Imagine 20 per cent of India’s poor can be given Rs 72,000 a year. There is no shortage of money in the country.”

He targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre over demonetisation and the goods and services tax, which he calls “Gabbar Singh Tax” referring to the extortion by the villain of Bollywood blockbuster of 1970s, “Sholay”.

“Mr Narendra Modi did demonetization and gave you Gabbar Singh Tax. He took thousands and thousands of crore out of the Indian economy…small businessmen, shopkeepers were destroyed…Mr Narendra Modi demonetised Indian economy, NYAY will remonetise Indian economy… The damage Mr Narendra Modi did will be fixed,” said Gandhi at the rally where he faced difficulties with translation from his English speech to Malayalam.

PJ Kurien, the senior Congress leader and former deputy chairman of the Lok Sabha, was facilitating as the translator for Gandhi. But Kurien was unable to pick Gandhi’s address clearly apparently due to some technical glitch that led to “echo” of his speech. Gandhi looked a little unhappy over the issue and was seen repeating himself to Kurien but he continued with his speech.

The Congress is contesting on 16 out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala. The party has left four seats for its allies - two for Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and one each for Kerala Congress (Mani) and Socialist Party (RSP).

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 13:33 IST