Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday termed his party’s promise of minimum guaranteed income to the poorest 20 per cent households a “surgical strike on poverty” and said nobody should be poor in 21st century India.
Addressing a rally in Suratgarh town of Ganganagar district, a day after declaring his party would roll out the scheme if voted to power, Gandhi alleged that Prime Minster Narendra Modi gave money to the rich and top industrialists of the country, but the Congress would serve the poor. He said the promised minimum income scheme was a “big bang”.
“ Dhamaka hai ye...bomb fatega (It’s a big bang...a bomb will set off). This is a Congress’s surgical strike on poverty. They (the BJP) worked to eliminate the poor, we will eliminate poverty,” Gandhi said.
On helping the poor, he said, “We thought how it should be done. After discussion and brainstorming, we thought that there should be a minimum income line of Rs 12,000 per month. Soon after formation of the Congress government in 2019, the minimum income line in India will be Rs 12,000 per month.”
He alleged that poverty and unemployment had increased under the Modi government. While the Congress-led UPA government had lifted 14 crore people out of poverty, “Modi made them poor again”, he claimed.
On Monday, Gandhi announced in New Delhi that Rs 72,000 per year will be given as minimum income to poor families, benefiting around 25 crore people, if his party is voted to power in the Lok Sabha polls.
“Nobody should be poor in the country in the 21st century,” he told the Suratgarh rally on Tuesday.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday dismissed the Congress promise of minimum guaranteed income, saying the party has a history of “cheating” the poor and misleading the country in the name of removing poverty.
In 1971, Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother and then prime minister Indira Gandhi had also given ‘ Garibi Hatao, Desh Bachao’ (remove poverty, save the nation) slogan during the general election campaign. Years later, PM Modi, during a speech in 2018, termed the ‘ Garibi Hatao’ slogan a “false promise”.
Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday also alleged the Modi government had weakened schemes and programmes such as MGNREGA and food security, introduced by the UPA dispensation.
“Whatever was done under the MGRENGA, food security and loan waiver by the UPA government, has been finished by Narendra Modi. Poverty and unemployment increased in his rule,” he said.
He said that top industrialists were helped by the government in “looting” the public money and their debt of Rs 3.5 lakh were written off, but farm loans were not.
The Congress chief continued his “chowkidar” barb at the PM. “During the last elections, he promised jobs to two crore youths, Rs 15 lakh in every bank account. But no jobs were given and no money was transferred. He made tall promises. He spoke whatever came to his mind. He had asked the public to not make him the prime minister, but a chowkidar (watchman). But he never said that he would not be your chowkidar, but a chowkidar of people like Anil Ambani,” he said.
He said all those who took away public money from banks were “helped” by the NDA government, PM Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and Union Minister Arun Jaitley. All of them have looted public money, he charged.
He also targeted the government over demonetisation and GST, and asked if the note ban was announced to curb black money, why nobody having such asset was seen in a queue to covert the currency. Banks changed the black money through the back door, he alleged.
Gandhi said Shah’s son’s business of Rs 50,000 had progressed to crores of rupees, tainted businessman Mehul Choksi transferred money to the bank account of Jaitley’s daughter, and fugitive liquor baron, Vijay Mallya, met Jaitley in Parliament House before absconding.
All these allegations have been refuted by the BJP and its leaders.
The Congress president reiterated his allegation against the government over the Rafale deal, saying Modi helped Anil Ambani in getting the contract for manufacturing the plane, despite the fact that he had no experience in making aircraft. These allegations have also been rejected by the government and Ambani.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, deputy chief minister and Pradesh congress committee president Sachin Pilot, and other senior leaders of the party were present at the rally.