New Delhi, Nov. 28: The BJP is groping for a response to the rollout of the direct cash transfer scheme, picking only on the timing and venue of the announcement.
It was "improper" to have made the announcement outside Parliament when it was in session and at the Congress headquarters instead of an official venue, the party said.
"Is it a good scheme?" Yashwant Sinha asked, speaking to The Telegraph, before going on to give the answer: "We are in favour of such a scheme but a good scheme is sought to be politicised by the Congress. This scheme is still open to misuse if proper safeguards are not put in place."
Sinha, who was finance minister in the NDA government, and M. Venkaiah Naidu have been asked by L.K. Advani to prepare a "policy paper" on the scheme for the BJP after different views emerged when it was discussed briefly at the parliamentary party meeting yesterday.
Sinha objected to the timing of the announcement, saying: "It shows the scant respect with which they (the UPA) treat Parliament."
Asked how a statement could have been made in Parliament when the Opposition is not allowing it to function, Sinha said: "Even in the din, the finance or rural development minister could have placed a written statement."
A bigger issue, he said, was ministers P. Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh announcing the scheme at the Congress headquarters. "Is this proper… the distinction between the government and party is getting blurred and, in this case, completely obliterated."
He complained that Ramesh's slogan, "Your cash in your hands", was meant to "promote" the Congress.
But the BJP is afraid to oppose the scheme itself for fear of being seen as anti-poor.
Activists cry foul
The party's Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson Prakash Javadekar today shared the dais with civil rights activists Aruna Roy and Medha Patkar and CPM leader Brinda Karat, who were protesting the scheme.
Roy, a member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council, dismissed the government's claim that direct cash transfer would check corruption. "Technology can be used or misused. To say that corruption can be checked by technology is not correct," said Roy, a member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.
The activist said the Aadhaar-linked database of beneficiaries could be misused to harass anyone who speaks out against the government. "The government can prepare a list of people who would dissent. They will be tracked and harassed," she said.
Over 20 civil society groups criticised the scheme, saying cash transfer of food subsidy ' not being rolled out now, but expected in the future ' would not guarantee food security.
At a news conference, activist Nikhil Dey said the cash provided for a certain quantity of foodgrain may not be enough to purchase the same amount from the market in view of inflation and fluctuations in market prices.