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BJP query over cash scheme

New Delhi, Nov. 28: The BJP is floundering for a coherent and politically thought-through response to the Centre’s decision to roll out the direct cash transfer scheme.

All it picked on was the timing and venue of the announcement, suggesting it was “improper” to have made it outside Parliament when it was in session and that too at the Congress headquarters instead of an official place.

The issue figured briefly at a meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary party on Tuesday. L.K. Advani asked his senior colleagues, Yashwant Sinha and M. Venkaiah Naidu, to prepare a “policy” paper for the BJP because different, albeit odd views, emerged.

Sinha, who was the finance minister in the NDA government, asked The Telegraph, “Is it a good scheme?” and answered, saying: “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 objected to the timing, saying: “It shows the scant respect with which they (the UPA) treat Parliament.” Asked how a statement could possibly have been made, when the Opposition disallowed Parliament from functioning, he said, “Even in the din, the finance or rural development ministers could have placed a written statement.”

A bigger issue, he said, was P. Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh, the finance and rural development ministers, announcing the scheme at the Congress headquarters.

“Is this proper? When we were in power, the Congress raised a din and alleged that Naidu, as the BJP president, had called government officials to his residence. Here, the distinction between the government and party is getting blurred, and in this case, completely obliterated.”

He complained that the scheme-related slogan, coined by Ramesh, that went, “Your cash is there in your hand”, was meant to “promote” the Congress.

Sinha’s other carp was that while the Congress general secretary, Rahul Gandhi, was mandated to “monitor the implementation”, he, as a Lok Sabha MP from Hazaribagh, would have no role in the two districts falling within his constituency.

BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson, Prakash Javadekar, shared a dais with civil rights activists Aruna Roy and Medha Patkar and CPM leader Brinda Karat to protest the scheme.

He demanded a discussion in Parliament and alleged that the endeavour did not contain a single new subsidy.

Unlike the Left, that was against the scheme because the cash disbursement will not factor in inflation vagaries and the fear that it would whittle down subsidies, the BJP’s case rested on trivial grouses.

Indeed, in yesterday’s meeting of its MPs, there was a suggestion that the NDA had a shot at a similar move of directly transferring cash for food subsidies — something the UPA is not attempting in the initial phase of implementation.

The BJP’s main problem was crafting an appropriate political response that, sources admitted, would be “difficult”.

On the matter of FDI in multi-brand retail, it opposed it straightaway, hoping it would send the “desired” message to its constituency of small and medium domestic retailers.

In the direct cash transfer case, even a considered opposition from the BJP may be construed as politically incorrect because in popular perception, it is still regarded as an urban party pandering to the traders and not one of the poor.