Thiruvananthapuram: Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi had piloted a Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme, christened Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY). However, it didn't convince the Indian voters to switch back to Congress as the party once again failed miserably at the hustings. Two years later, the party's unit in Kerala has dusted up the scheme hoping that it will help to come back to power in the state.
A draft election manifesto of the Congress-led United Democratic Front states it will implement the NYAY if voted back to power in the upcoming Assembly election.
The UDF's announcement in this regard, a day before the presentation of the state budget on Friday, has stumped the ruling Left Democratic Front government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
Referring to the Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme, the Finance Minister said, “Let the Congress leaders reveal how they would mobilise the necessary funds for the programme.”
The Congress- led front's shift towards government assistance and intervention had to be expected as the LDF had made spectacular gains in the recent local body polls likely due to the state government's welfare measures including distribution of free ration kits during the Covid pandemic period.
A day before the budget, the UDF leadership also wanted to convey to the people of the state that it was also in favour of implementing aggressive welfare measures.
Moreover, the UDF leadership also anticipated that the LDF government would announce a slew of social welfare measures and sops in its last budget. This is also the reason why the UDF came out first with its draft election manifesto.
Shift in stand
The UDF governments in the recent past had given a major push to development rather than on social welfare activities. However, the draft manifesto clearly marks a shift from that policy and emphasises that the basic principle to be followed by the UDF would be more of government intervention in development and welfare measures.
Observers view the announcement on NYAY as a fundamental change in UDF's policy. This has been necessitated by the economic crisis in the state in the wake of natural calamities and the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years. About 40 per cent of the state’s population has been plunged into crisis. So naturally increased government intervention is the need of the hour and the draft manifesto reflects it.
However, the draft made it clear that the UDF would continue to give priority to investment, employment and benevolent activities as was done during the previous Oommen Chandy government's tenure.
Is it feasible?
How exactly Rahul Gandhi's NYAY will work out in Kerala which is already caught in a debt trap has to be seen once it is put to test.
The UDF subcommittee on manifesto had decided to ensure an income of Rs 6,000 per month for families which are below the poverty line. As of now each poor household in the state is getting Rs 3,000 by way of welfare pension. As per the scheme an additional Rs 3,000 has to be granted to each family. The UDF leaders pointed out that a portion of the Rs 30,000 crore annual plan outlay should be set aside for the NYAY.
The UDF has also proposed "bill less" hospitals in view of the ever increasing health problems and treatment cost. The recommendations to bring ground breaking changes in the education sector are also under committee’s consideration. A committee headed by Benny Behanan and C P John as convenor would tour various parts of the state to gather opinion from a cross section of people.
The UDF election manifesto will be given a final shape by this month.