Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s minimum income guarantee scheme promising Rs 72000 crore to the 20 per cent of the poorest families in India could turn out to be a game changer in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. People, under the scheme will get money, if their income was less than the minimum Income, “irrespective of whoever they are, whichever state they lived in or religion they followed and whatever language they spoke”. This is a bracing message something India hasn’t heard over the past five years. The money is sought to be deposited in the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. The scheme which has been strategically announced closer to the polls has the potential of delivering a knock-out blow to the opponents of the Congress including the ruling party. And this is apparent from the way the BJP and the other parties have reacted. The Congress move has been termed as a “bluff announcement” by the finance minister Arun Jaitley, a statement endorsed by the BSP chief Mayawati.
But it is apparent that the political impact of the scheme will be widespread considering the unemployment and the rural distress that has plagued India over the past five years. And this is a reality that is dawning on the ruling party. On Wednesday, two days after the unveiling of the scheme by Gandhi, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a dramatic address to the nation announced that India had successfully tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile for the first time. The missile shot down a Low Earth Orbiting satellite, 300 km in the sky as part of an operation titled Mission Shakti, something that the PM said had signalled India’s entry into elite club of space superpowers. However, the test carried out just weeks before the Lok Sabha polls and the PM addressing the nation over this is being seen as a sign that the BJP is sensing the loss of grip on the political narrative.
In this campaign, Congress has so far played it smart. It has not taken on the BJP ideologically – in fact it has chosen to ply a softer version of the BJP’s Hindutva – instead it has shifted the battleground to economy and maintained a steady focus on the BJP’s failures in this regard. And the policy seems to be paying off now. With every passing day Congress seems to be taking back the control of the election discourse. Suddenly Balakot strike seems to be a distant memory. The BJP will have to do something exceptionally different and more beneficial to a wide swathe of the population to get forcefully back into the reckoning. Here’s hoping that the parties compete with one another on a regenerative political agenda rather than a divisive and toxic narrative that has been currently holding sway in the country.