Days ahead of the Lok Sabha elections 2019, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday, March 25, announced what he called a "historic" minimum income guarantee scheme which will ensure Rs 72,000 annual income support for 20 per cent of India's poorest families if the Congress came to power. This was the party's big poll promise this season.
The Congress leader addressed a press conference in the national capital after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet and announced, "20 per cent of the poorest families will be given income support of Rs 72,000 every year. All modalities have been worked out and this is possible within our budget. We have studied the fiscal implications of the scheme."
The amount will be directly transferred to the bank accounts of 20 per cent of poor in the nation. The Congress chief referred to the scheme as the "final assault on poverty" and said it would lift five crore families or 25 crore people out of poverty.
"It is not acceptable to the Congress party that there is poverty in the country in the 21st century. The final assault on poverty has begun," Gandhi said about the scheme named Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) by his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. The name was suggested by her in Ahmedabad when she attended a Congress leadership meet for the first time. The acronym NYAY means "justice" in Hindi.
Congress's manifesto committee headed by former minister P Chidambaram has been working on finalising the party's manifesto for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections for the past several months.
However, Gandhi did not give details on how the party arrived at the Rs 72,000 figure, leaving it for Chidambaram to explain on a given date. The Congress chief went on to say that the party has studied the fiscal implications and consulted renowned economists and experts before finalising this scheme. Rahul Gandhi described the scheme as an "extremely powerful, dynamic, well-thought-through idea."
The announcement comes just days after the Modi-led NDA government announced a minimum income support scheme for the poor and marginalised farmers in its last Budget before the general elections, drawing criticism from the Opposition. The BJP has promised Rs 6,000 annual income support for poor farmers.
After making the big announcement, the Congress leader asked the reporters, "Haan, surprise hue na? (so, you look surprised)". On April 11, 91 constituencies spread across 20 states and union territories will go to polls marking the first phase of the general elections.