‘A bluff announcement’: Arun Jaitley slams Rahul Gandhi’s minimum income guarantee

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addressed the media on Monday. (File)

Calling it a "bluff announcement," Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday took a swipe at Congress’ election promise of a minimum income guarantee, claiming that Rs 72,000 for five crore families would prove to be "less than two-thirds" of what is being provided by the present Narendra Modi-led government.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had announced that 20 per cent families belonging to the poorest category will be given Rs 72,000 each annually under the minimum income guarantee scheme if his party comes to power.

Taking a fresh dig at the opposition party in a Facebook blog post, Jaitley said, "No political party has betrayed India for more than seven decades other than the Congress party. It gave to the people of India many slogans and very little resources to implement them."

Explained: What is Rahul Gandhi's minimum income scheme? Who will benefit?

"In the last five years, the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) through the banking system. Besides subsidies for food, fertilizer, kerosene, 55 ministries handed over subsidies to the poor through the DBT which was enabled by Aadhaar. The Congress opposed Aadhaar in Parliament and challenged it before the Supreme Court. Ironically, they now want to use the same mechanism," the minister said while lashing out at the grand old party.

"You have misled the country on the issue of poverty for 50 years. Even after giving that slogan (gareebi hatao), if today you think that 20% of the people don’t even have an income of Rs 12,000, then the cross hangs on your neck for letting down poor of the country," Jaitley said.

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Taking into account the total amount of subsidies provided by the government, Jaitley claimed that Rs 5.34 lakh crore was already being distributed to the poor.

"In addition to the above, Rs.5.34 lakh crore, there are several other schemes which provide several thousands of crores more to the poor. If the Congress party's announcement is tested on simple arithmetic, Rs 72,000 for five crore families works out to be Rs 3.6 lakh crore, which is less than 2/3rd of what is being given – A bluff announcement," he asserted.

The Union minister referred to the MGNREGA scheme to show that a majority of industrial workers are already paid more than Rs 12,000 per month. Under this plan, at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year are provided to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

"The landless and poor, amongst the villagers, get a MNREGA payment. Minimum wages for labour have been raised by 42%. Today, even most industrial workers get more than Rs 12,000 per month," he said.

Jaitley added, "The minimum starting salary in the government after the Seventh Pay Commission is Rs 18,000 per month. A small and marginal farmer, besides home, road, toilet, electricity, cooking gas subsidies, crop insurance, MSP payment, will also get income support."

Speaking of promises of loan waivers by the grand old party, Jaitley said, "The Congress Party in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Karnataka promised a loan waiver. In most places, the promise remains unfulfilled. The party, thus, has a long legacy of slogans with no resources. It has a history of bluff announcements. Karnataka so far has spent only Rs.2600 crore, Madhya Pradesh Rs.3000 crore and Punjab Rs.5500 crore. The farmers are still waiting."

The minister also wondered why did states like West Bengal not implement the Ayushman Bharat scheme despite "so much concern for the poor". If the Congress Party and its friends have so much concern for the poor in India, why is it that its States are going slow in certifying the list of small and marginal farmers who are entitled to receiving the instalment of PM KISAN?" he said.

The senior BJP leader added, "Why are some of the States such as West Bengal, Odisha and Delhi, amongst others, not implementing the Ayushman Bharat? What is the fault of their poor farmers that they want to make them pay?"