The much-vaunted and controversial cash transfer scheme of the UPA is undoubtedly an ambitious programme that the government hopes will benefit crores of people, many of whom may return the favour come election time. The government will use the Aadhar numbers for cash transfers directly to bank accounts of the needy. Interestingly, a similar project for disbursal of cash subsidy against the kerosene supply will soon be launched in five districts of Maharashtra.
This will eliminate a chain of unscrupulous elements that work as middlemen between the government and beneficiaries. Secondly, since the benefit will reach the hands of the beneficiaries directly, the ruling party will take full credit of it. In Maharashtra, under the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojna (SGNY), people above 60 years of age who have no one to support them get a specific amount every month.
The scheme launched by former Congress chief minister AR Antulay has been highly successful in creating a direct vote bank for the party. Each and every member of the tehsil level committee meant for scrutinising and approving applicants makes it a point to tell the beneficiaries that the money they would be getting was because of the Congress and Gandhi family. The practice has been on for years.
For the kerosene subsidy plan, the state has zeroed in on six districts including Mumbai city and suburbs. By December 31 the programme aims opening of bank accounts in the name of women members of targeted family. Lakhs of ration cardholders will be at liberty to purchase kerosene from the open market.
A similar model is expected for food subsidy and the UPA government has allocated Rs 103 crore to the state for linking 2.13 crore ration cardholders to Aadhar details and barcodes.
Apart from this, observers appointed by All India Congress Committee have been asked to conduct tours of states to assess the party position and organisational structure in Lok Sabha constituencies allocated to them.
One such observer has been camping in Mumbai too. Three union ministers, who were in Mumbai on Saturday, gave some factual details to select party MPs, legislators and office bearers based on issues such as 2G, FDI etc that have attracted public attention.
Even before opposition parties could prepare grounds, Congress has taken the lead. This exercise is clearly aimed at taking the wind out of the Opposition bandwagon that wanted to cash in on the current atmosphere of scams and corruption at various levels and failure of the government to prevent it.
According to Congress leaders from the state, the general elections may be held in November next year. The message was passed on by none other than Rahul Gandhi himself, when a group of party men recently attended a meeting with him. Rahul is heading the Congress Coordination Committee for the polls and the current strategies are being devised by people close to him, said a senior leader.
Even if reports appearing in a section of media say that the Congress doesn’t want to antagonise NCP, the situation is different. The release of White Paper on the irrigation department in the state – a sensitive issue for the last one year – has given rise to a lot of conjecture.
Some people perceive this as Congress CM Prithviraj Chavan giving a clean chit to his alliance partner. But, his hands seemed tied mainly because his own party legislators and MPs have from time to time, made certain demands on changes in scope and designs of the project, leading to delays and cost escalation. Any inquiry, if instituted, will put some of his men in the dock apart from NCP leaders.
So, the cash transfer scheme is the party’s best bet, and it knows this. The government proposes to roll out the Aadhaar-enabled cash transfer for 29 schemes from January 1 in 51 districts, spread over 16 states. It also plans to cover the entire nation by the end of December 2013. Later, the cash transfer would cover all the 42 welfare schemes. Whether ‘Aapka Paisa Aapke Haath’ pays rich electoral dividends for Congress and UPA will only be evident once the general elections — whenever they are held — are over. Till then it’s all about passing the buck.
— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY