Every 10 years, the Congress comes up with a scheme that shakes up the nation, and the party is now giving a revolutionary delivery system to people in the 21st century, Rahul told district Congress committee presidents and Lok Sabha Youth Congress presidents of the 51 districts where the scheme is to be rolled out from January 1.
He recalled the late Rajiv Gandhi’s remark that only 15 paise out of a rupee reached intended beneficiaries, and added that direct cash transfer would result in the delivery of at least 99 paise, according to sources present at the meeting.
Later in the day, the Congress sought to officially delink the scheme from political considerations.
At a press conference at the party headquarters, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh quoted Rahul as saying , “Aapka paisa, aapke haath’ is definitely a political slogan”. Congress general secretary and chairman of its media department Janardan Dwivedi was, however, quick to correct him saying, “Others may call it a political slogan, but from our side, it is a welfare and anti-corruption scheme.”
Speaking at the Idea Exchange programme at The Indian Express on Thursday, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had expressed his party’s support for the scheme, but regretted what he said were the Congress’s attempts to “politicise” it.
Sinha has been entrusted by his party to prepare a policy paper on the cash transfer scheme. The scheme was a part of the BJP’s election manifesto in 2009. It was not in the Congress’s manifesto, contrary to Jairam’s assertion earlier that his party was fulfilling a promise it made in its manifesto in 2009.
Addressing Congress office-bearers at the party’s ‘war room’ on Gurudwara Rakabganj Road, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the government would try to roll out the scheme in 51 districts on January 1 but it was at present checking levels of preparedness in each district.
The finance minister, who is scheduled to visit some of these districts, said at least 80 per cent preparedness was needed for the scheme to be launched, according to sources.
Separately, the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday reviewed the scheme’s preparedness. A one-day meeting of the collectors of the concerned districts will be held shortly. The Planning Commission will organise a video conference with the chief secretaries or finance secretaries of the participating states to assess preparedness.
Apparently seeking to address reservations of opposition parties and a section within the Congress about the inclusion of food and fertiliser subsidies in the direct cash transfer scheme, Jairam said on Friday, “As the finance minister has clarified, this is not our intention or desire... It will not substitute public distribution system for a few years.”
Incidentally, the Congress appeared to be cagey about calling the scheme ‘cash transfer’. A 12-page note on frequently asked questions circulated at the press conference called it a Direct Benefits Transfer Scheme.