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BJP finds poll fault in cash transfer plan

Ravi Shankar Prasad

New Delhi, Nov. 29: The BJP has decided to complain to the Election Commission that the government’s announcement of the direct cash transfer scheme violates the model code of conduct.

The decision reflects the main Opposition party’s dilemma about a “populist” programme that it cannot oppose but which it fears will cost it votes.

A BJP team will meet the commission on Friday afternoon. Party leaders said the scheme had been timed ahead of the Gujarat elections to influence the voters.

In principle, the BJP is not opposed to the scheme, which figured in its 2009 Lok Sabha election manifesto. But the party seems to be regretting that it’s the Congress that is implementing the idea.

“All welfare payments, including widow and old-age pensions, through the wide range of schemes such as mother and child support/kisan credit, students assistance and micro-credit, will be channelised through the national identity card,” read the BJP’s 2009 manifesto.

The party has attacked the government for “bypassing” Parliament over the scheme, citing that the national legislature has still not approved the bill on unique identification, the vehicle for the cash transfer.

It has said it would oppose the scheme if there is any effort to weaken the public distribution system (PDS).

“Why has Parliament been bypassed on this issue? If cash transfer means weakening of the PDS, then the BJP would strongly protest,” chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

He, however, refrained from either opposing the scheme or applauding it, saying the party would form an opinion only after the government came up with a blueprint on its implementation.

“There are issues (about) which BPL (below poverty line) category would be used. There are differing reports about the BPL numbers,” he said.

The CPM appeared to be on the same page as the BJP about the Congress’s political motives ahead of the Gujarat polls.

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury accused the Congress of “blatant misuse” of the party symbol in announcing the cash transfer scheme and felt it could amount to a “corrupt practice” under elections laws.

“The announcement from the party office and the use of the party symbol to announce the cash transfer scheme is a blatant misuse of the party symbol and can fall under ‘corrupt practices’,” Yechury said.

The CPM has opposed the scheme in principle, alleging it is aimed at reducing the government’s subsidy bill.

Yechury appeared to be echoing the BJP as he said: “UID (unique identification) is still not legal as Parliament has not passed the bill. Without this legal sanctity, the government cannot implement the (cash transfer) scheme.”