'Ab hoga NYAY'
Speaking exclusively to Millennium Post, a poised Sam Pitroda believes NYAY will prove to be a surgical strike on poverty, ensuring holistic development of the country’s poor
A close confidant of Congress's first family and head of the Indian Overseas Congress, Sam Pitroda is now a key adviser to Rahul Gandhi. The technocrat credited for ushering the new telecom regime in the 1980s is in news for his comments on Balakot airstrikes. Also, a member of the Congress Manifesto Committee, Sam Pitroda in a free-wheeling interview with Dhirendra Kumar of Millennium Post says that Minimum Income Guarantee Programme or the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) promised by his party could be an economic gamechanger. Excerpts from the interview:
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has unveiled the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) which is the main component of the party's manifesto. Do you think this scheme is going to be a game-changer in the ongoing general elections?
Yes, I think so. In fact, this is what India needs today as there are about 200 billion people living below the poverty line and it's our moral and social responsibility to uplift them. We did it earlier partly with the launch of MGNREGA during Manmohan Singh's time and it worked pretty well against all the advice of noted economist in terms of GDP and all. We did it at that time as our moral responsibility.
Now I think we need to take the next step which is NYAY. This is a good step in the right direction. When we look at a 3 trillion economy, this 50 billion is not much. It's just a number. The idea is good and it will make an impact not just on elections but on larger issues such as eliminating poverty from the country. I think it will affect a large number of people. Whether it will impact in terms of votes or not is not the purpose of this scheme. The core mandate of this scheme is the holistic development of every poor living in this country.
BJP dismissed NYAY while others want to know where the money would come from?
BJP is dismissing NYAY as they have not done anything for the upliftment of poor people. They had opposed MGNREGA too, but the scheme is a huge success. Lots of poor people have benefited from it. Similarly, NYAY would prove to be a surgical strike on poverty, that's why BJP is opposing the scheme meant for the poor population.
Availability of fund wouldn't be an issue in its implementation as there is enough money in the system. So many economists have suggested for the scheme. Right from Congress president Rahul Gandhi, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram to former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan have all said it time and again that the scheme is feasible as there is enough money in the system. So I believe the availability of fund is not going to be a hurdle in for implementation of NYAY. The scheme is meant for only 20 per cent poorest of poor people and its implementation would take some time as it can't be rolled out overnight. There would be some challenges as it's part of the system, but we are very much confident that the NYAY scheme would be rolled out soon after winning the elections.
As you are a close confidant of the Congress's first family, you have witnessed the working style of Rajiv Gandhi too. Now you are working with Rahul Gandhi. What differences or similarities do you see in them?
The 80s were very different from 20s as in 80s free market economy, liberalisation was in its infancy. Today, we have benefited a lot from that. During the era of Rajiv Gandhi, the country was having just 2 million phones, today we have over 1.2 billion smartphones and several social media platforms to raise our voice, which was absent in the 80s. Since new technological advancements have taken place, challenges are also very different and we need young leadership to deal with new challenges.
In the new generation of opposition, all leaders are young such as Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, etc. What will be Rahul's equation with them?
I think his equation with them is very good. They all know each other and have a good friendship. They are all well-connected and that is good for a healthy democracy. The political aspiration of young leaders is good for democracy and wouldn't affect their relationship.
You are credited as the architect of Rahul Gandhi's connect with the diaspora. How is this different from PM Modi's outreach?
When our Prime Minister makes a visit to any country, he goes there as a head of the state of 1.3 billion people, it is quite obvious that he gets a different platform. In the case of Rahul Gandhi, he visits any country as an ordinary citizen and head of the opposition party. So he doesn't get support from the Indian government of any kind. It is very surprising that even Counsel General of India doesn't support Rahul Gandhi in any country where he visits.
Despite all these unfavourable conditions created by our government machinery, we get a great reception from local governments, local politicians, political parties, intellectuals, academicians, business communities, and NRIs. Our foreign trips are focussed on interaction with local people and less to interact with government. We do meet with heads of the state and students.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that Congress has not done anything in the last 60 years. Your comments?
That's a lie. If that was the case then how did the country get 2.2 billion phones from 2 million, IITs, IIMs, CSIRs, AIIMS, defence research organisations, space technologies, autonomic energy, major universities, etc., in the country? Right from dams to steel industry to public sector enterprises, all is the outcome of the vision of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. How can he say this? It's an insult to the people of the country.
As like 2014, nowadays, too, Congress is not able to communicate with people about the works that it has done for the welfare of people. While on the other hand, BJP is able to communicate with people despite the fact that most of the schemes have not been a success. Don't you think that Congress is lagging behind on this front?
This is very simple. Once when you blatantly and shamelessly lie, it gets amplified. People start liking lies. The other major factor is that BJP is spending lots of money. The bigger question is from where has this money come which BJP is spending on poll campaigning? On one hand, BJP says that they are not corrupt, while on the other, BJP has spent at least Rs 30 crore on social media. Contrary to BJP's spending, we have spent less than Rs 10 lakh. So it is the lie and money power that BJP is using is to befool voters.
Do you think Priyanka Gandhi's entry into active politics would make a difference in Uttar Pradesh?
I think so. Priyanka Gandhi is very popular among youth and women of Uttar Pradesh. We are hoping that her entry into active politics would definitely make a difference to the Congress's fortunes in Uttar Pradesh.
(Dhirendra Kumar is Special Correspondent, Millennium Post)