In a big-bang poll promise, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday announced that Rs 72,000 per year will be given as minimum income to poor families, benefiting around 25 crore people, if his party is voted to power in Lok Sabha polls, and asserted it will be the final assault on poverty.
Addressing a press conference here, Gandhi said 20 per cent or five crore families belonging to the poorest category with monthly income less than Rs 12,000 would come under the scheme.
"This is a ground breaking idea. It is a historic day for India and the final assault on poverty is beginning. We will wipe out poverty from the country," he said, adding that the scheme was finalised after thorough consultations with renowned economists and experts.
However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described the poll promise as a "bluff announcement", saying no other political party has betrayed India for more than seven decades in the name of poverty. He said the Congress has given to the people many slogans but very little resources to implement its election promises.
Hitting back at Jaitley, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it was shameful that he was opposing the scheme while waiving loans for the rich and alleged suited-booted BJP has always treated India's poor with disdain .
The scheme comes as a sequel to the minimum income guarantee scheme announced by Gandhi a few days ago, while campaigning at a poll rally. The scheme is a major poll promise made by the Congress in a bid to woo poor voters with an aim to improve the party's prospects in Lok Sabha polls.
Gandhi said families which are earning less than Rs 12,000 a month will get the remaining amount to provide minimum income to them. He said each family will get up to a maximum of Rs 72,000 per annum.
"The Congress party guarantees that 20 per cent families belonging to poorest of the poor category in India will be given Rs 72,000 each annually, to help provide them minimum income of Rs 12,000 per month," Gandhi said, adding that details of the scheme would be unveiled in the coming few days.
"'Nyay' (justice) For India is our dream and our pledge. The time for change has come," he later said on Twitter.
Gandhi made the scheme public soon after it was given a go-ahead by the Congress Working Committee, that had met at the AICC headquarters to give final shape to the party's manifesto, to be released soon.
The Congress chief said the party has studied the fiscal implications of the scheme and consulted renowned economists and experts before finalising it.
"This is a historic scheme which has not happened anywhere in the world. It is an extremely powerful, ground-breaking and well-thought idea. We have consulted many economists on the scheme," he said, adding "it will be a fiscally prudent move.
Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of giving money to the rich and not the poor, Gandhi alleged that poor people have suffered in the last five years and "we are going to provide justice to them".
Asked how they expect to mop up resources and whether it will affect the economy, he said there is enough money in India and the Congress party guarantees that 20 per cent poorest families will be given Rs 72,000 per year directly into their bank accounts .
"If Narendra Modi can give money to the richest people in the country, then the Congress party can give money to the poorest in the country. Narendra Modi is creating two Indias and we will not allow two Indias and will be only one India," he said.
"I am promising you today that justice will be done. Scheme will be on a phase basis. First a pilot project will be run then scheme will run," he said.
"The fiscal repercussions of this have been analyzed. This money is perfectly available. This scheme is perfectly doable. We are going to deliver this scheme," he said.
Congress general secretray Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also tweeted on the issue, saying there is going to be a big assault on poverty as the Congress has come up with a minimum income plan.
"We have consulted economists, this is doable, and we will adhere to fiscal discipline," former finance minister P Chidambaram.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said his party was not surprised that the BJP is opposing the scheme as they are "fundamentally against policies which benefit the marginalised and poor".
Modiji & @arunjaitley have happily waived off ?3.17 Lakh Cr for a handful of corny friends! Shameful that they oppose World's Biggest Anti-Poverty Scheme- #NyayForIndia meant for 20% of India i.e 5 Cr families, Surjewala tweeted.
Meanwhile, Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar said Rahul Gandhi's promise of providing Rs 72,000 annually to five crore families will create strong incentives against work and bust fiscal discipline.
"True to its past record of promising the moon to win elections, Congress President announces a scheme that will bust fiscal discipline, create strong incentives against work and which will never be implemented," Kumar said in a tweet. Kumar also said the Congress party had promised 'Garibi Hatao' in 1971, 'One Rank One Pension' in 2008, food security in 2013 to win elections, but could not fulfil any of those.
The "same unfortunate fate" awaits the populist and opportunistic promise of minimum income guarantee, he added.
(This article has not been edited by Zeebiz editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)