FairPoint: Credibility deficit stymies Rahul's new guarantee announcements

When Rahul Gandhi announced five 'Congress guarantees' for the Lok Sabha polls in an apparent counter to BJP's 'Modi ki guarantee', there were hardly any cheers.

FairPoint: Credibility deficit stymies Rahul's new guarantee announcements
Source: IANS

Deepika Bhan

New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) When Rahul Gandhi announced five 'Congress guarantees' for the Lok Sabha polls in an apparent counter to BJP's 'Modi ki guarantee', there were hardly any cheers.


The Congress leader flanked by party president Mallikarjun Kharge made the announcement during the Rajasthan leg of Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. His promises should have been at once highlighted and amplified by the party's national and state leaders, but there has been no enthusiasm about the new 'promises'. Even the INDIA bloc partners seem unmoved by the promises.

This was unlike the way the party went about promoting the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) scheme announced by Rahul Gandhi in March 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls that year. All senior Congress leaders, including Chief Ministers from the party, gathered at the national headquarters for the release of the manifesto, which contained details of the scheme. NYAY was projected to be a gamechanger and ultimate weapon to defeat the incumbent BJP government at the Centre.

The party even centred its poll campaign around it. The high point came when Rahul Gandhi held a roadshow while going to file his nomination from his traditional Lok Sabha seat of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh in 2019. His sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, accompanied him and the roadshow featured a different campaign flag.

In addition to the traditional party flags, Congress leaders and supporters were carrying blue-coloured flags that advertised the party's central poll promise, namely, the NYAY scheme. Blue flags are usually associated with Dalit identity. Mayawati's BSP flag is blue in colour and so is Chandrashekhar Azad's Bhim Army flag.

Much against the hopes of the Congress, the people of Amethi rejected Rahul Gandhi's NYAY promise and handed him an embarrassing defeat in 2019.

This time when Rahul Gandhi came up with the latest five-guarantee promise, there were no big leaders, not even his sister or mother Sonia Gandhi, standing with him.

The five promises include: First job to be guaranteed for every graduate and diploma holder aged below 25 years, a stipend of Rs 1 lakh will be given over the one-year training period, the cost of the apprenticeship will be shared by the government and the employer.

The Congress claims that it has studied this thoroughly, but the promise seems to be reeking more of populist sentiment than of any practicality. Every year, millions become graduates and diploma holders in the country. How will the Congress provide the apprenticeship to all and how can it force the private sector to yield? These are questions the party has to answer.

On the guarantee of stopping paper leaks, the performance of the Congress in the states where it has been in power has been far from reassuring.

In Rajasthan, where it was in power till December 2023, as many as 16 exam papers leaked. The Enforcement Directorate raided the premises of state Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra in Jaipur and Sikar as part of a probe of a money-laundering angle to the case. Dotasra was the Education Minister in the then Congress government. Why couldn't the Congress tackle the problem when it was at the helm of affairs in the state?

The Congress’ manifesto in 2019 had the tagline "Hum Nibhayenge" and it mentioned several benefits apart from its flagship NYAY scheme, which said that 20 per cent of the poorest families in the country will get Rs 72,000 annually.

Having said that, did the Congress deliver on its promises in the states where it was in power? That did not happen and the party also never clarified from where the Rs 4 lakh crore needed for the scheme would be raised.

Even in Chhattisgarh, where it was in power, it did not put the scheme into practice and later announced a revised one.

It moved away from its 2019 promise of ensuring that each household earns at least Rs 72,000 a year and announced a new scheme -- Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojana (RGKNY) -- in 2020. Under this scheme, Rs 10,000 per acre a year was to be transferred into the bank accounts of farmers.

In Karnataka, the implementation of the Congress government's five poll guarantees, which it made in 2023, ahead of the Assembly polls, is imposing a "huge financial burden" on the exchequer and exerting significant pressure on the state's economy. This was revealed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's economic adviser, Basavaraj Rayareddi, early this year. In fact, the state presented a budget projecting a revenue deficit of Rs 27,353 crore for the year 2024-25, relying on borrowings to sustain the ruling party's five guarantees.

In July last year Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar said that the Congress government "did not have any money for fresh development projects as it had set aside funds to fulfil its five poll promises". He made this admission after 11 Congress MLAs had complained to the Chief Minister over lack of cooperation by ministers.

In Telangana, the Congress government had said that its six poll guarantees would be implemented within 100 days of the party assuming power. The government, though, has managed to launch just three of the six guarantees and that too partially. One of the promises that remains unfulfilled is to waive off loans up to Rs 2 lakh for farmers.

The latest announcement by Rahul Gandhi may be a desperate move to counter the highly successful and impressive 'Modi ki guarantee' campaign of the BJP.

The not so overwhelming response to Rahul Gandhi's ambitious Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra has further deepened the doubts of its leaders.

Many Congress leaders, some of them veterans such as Arjun Modhwadia in Gujarat and Ashok Chavan in Maharashtra, have quit the party, and directly or indirectly, questioned the party leadership's style of functioning and lack of connect with the masses.

The Congress has also failed in its INDIA bloc mission as the alliance has crumbled under its own weight. Most of the regional parties are giving the Congress a very tough time and bargaining is proving to be too costly for it.

Making all sorts of promises ahead of elections may be a compulsion for the Congress, but what matters is credibility. And it is here where the grand old party is falling short desperately.

People lost their trust in the Congress in 2014, which was again confirmed in 2019, as it did not fulfil promises made to people in the states where it was in power.

The BJP, on the other hand, has been working on the credibility factor and PM Modi is himself at the forefront of this national effort on the part of the party and the government.

(Deepika Bhan can be contacted at [email protected])