Congress has yet again picked up a work in progress concept of BJP (Nyas is loosely based on Niti Ayog’s plan of Universal Basic Income) and has announced it as its own. The sheer amount of money involved in this single scheme has made the Indian media to sit up and take notice of this plan.
As usual, the Lutyens Delhi is once again basking in this ‘revolutionary’ idea from ‘coming of age’ ‘youth icon’ of the national party. Some right-leaning media houses are very rightly questioning the economics and mathematics behind the scheme, which, sadly has not yet been answered by the grand old party.
But the biggest question right now is, will this drive the narrative as Congress has hoped? Congress is hoping for either of these two things: BJP to announce a counter scheme to Nyay thereby providing legitimacy to this outlandish claim or BJP to stay silent and thereby surrender the narrative to Congress party. But is this issue so simple and in black & white? If it is, then, as the clown prince has proclaimed, this is a game changing idea.
But the reality is very much different. Indian voters are very sensible and they usually won’t vote based on tall promises on the manifesto. They usually vote either on performance or non-performance of the incumbent government. If Congress was in power and had announced this scheme even in an election year and implemented this scheme even for 3-4 months, they would be re-elected irrespective of their performance in the past 4 years. In that way, this is a game changing idea.
For example, let’s take the 2009 general elections. UPA-1 was swamped with problems. National security was at its nadir. Dastardly 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks were still very fresh in the minds of the electorate. Scams had questioned the integrity of the nation. Infrastructure development by the government was pathetic. It was an ideal scenario for a government change.
However, farm loan waiver scheme changed the narrative and UPA came to power with a better mandate. Even Congress alone put up improved performance, which was impressive. The game changed not because of the election announcement of loan waiver, but because they actually did it.
Maybe if they had implemented this scheme in 2013, they might have come back for UPA-3 as well. But by then, Congress had misruled and looted to such an extent that they didn’t have any money to implement it in 2013. Anyway, the point is, this is a game-changing idea only if you had implemented it. People don’t vote for riches in the mirror.
Now some of you may question this based on results in 3 states of MP, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. Let me answer this in 2 points. The results in 3 states are not because of the tall promises of Congress party but mainly due to anti-incumbency. Considering 15 years of anti-incumbency in MP and Chhattisgarh, Congress’ performance in only Chhattisgarh is impressive. Hung assembly in MP and Rajasthan (a state where the ruling party is decimated in every election) is a very credible result for the good work done by BJP governments. Hence the argument of loan waiver being a game changer in these 3 states does not hold water.
To understand this further we should also consider the result of Telangana assembly elections which was held at the same time. Here also Congress promised the moon to the electorate which led to KTR famously commenting that the promises of Congress party to Telangana people cannot be fulfilled even with the budget of 4 states. On top of it, Congress also had an alliance with TDP (with 15 legislators in the previous assembly was a formidable ally) and still got decimated in front of the welfare schemes implemented by current TRS government.
I also have one more important reason to believe Nyay won’t be a game changer. That is the credibility or rather the lack of it of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. All his promises like mobile factories in every city, food processing plants in almost every village, farm loan waivers, the stipend for unemployed etc., has turned out to be fake. Not to forget his fantasies on Rafale deal which has pushed down his credibility beyond the lowest point.
Hence Congress should not live in a dream that their doles will influence people to vote for them. In an anti-climax, this announcement has potential to consolidate middle-class votes against Congress who fear higher taxes to fund this nightmarish scheme.