New Delhi, Aug. 31: The Congress has begun preparations for a massive propaganda drive on the food and land bills and asked spokespersons and leaders to focus on what the poor need instead of getting distracted by the economic slowdown.
The party held a special workshop of its spokespersons this week where food and consumer affairs minister K.V. Thomas explained the nuances of the food security bill to educate them on the right-based scheme.
A booklet with ready talking points was distributed among the leaders.
Another workshop on the land acquisition bill, to be addressed by rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, will be held on Monday.
The Lok Sabha has passed both the bills, which will now go to the Rajya Sabha for consideration.
The workshops, organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies at Jawahar Bhavan, are aimed at preparing those who appear in television discourses for a nuanced approach on these empowerment initiatives.
“We were told to argue that the poor needed a greater support system in bad times,” said a spokesperson who attended the food workshop. But for the Opposition’s disruptions, we would have brought the bill much earlier. We couldn’t have delayed it any further.”
The Congress leadership has made it clear that there is no need to be defensive on these schemes, no matter how critical the responses are. “Some people are not against subsidy to industry and MNCs. Are they against poor, middle class and farmers?” party general secretary Shakeel Ahmed tweeted.
The leadership has decided to include the middle class as a beneficiary of its welfare schemes, presuming that Bharat Nirman programmes had transformed rural India, creating a neo-middle class across states.
Congress leaders said if the MNREGA — the rural job scheme — had come as a boon for landless labourers, the land bill would benefit the landed class. “The attempt to isolate the middle class by describing these schemes as pro-poor is totally wrong,” spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das said. “Our rights-based approach is benefiting the majority of the population.”
The spokespersons have been asked to emphasise that it is the Congress which is behind these schemes and highlight that the BJP and many other parties had created hurdles in their way.
Manmohan Singh’s success in bringing into focus the BJP’s obstructionist tactics has delighted the Congress leadership, which is planning to harp on the Opposition’s non-cooperation in Parliament — both on economic reforms and social sector bills — in the lead-up to next year’s elections.
Senior Congress leaders believe the Prime Minister’s offensive in the Rajya Sabha yesterday had compelled the nation to take a holistic view of the reasons for policy paralysis and the long-term fallout of blocking legislative agenda.
The party’s communications chief, Ajay Maken, tweeted: “PM showing mirror to opposition: disruption between 1999-2004 18.95%, now 36.7%.”
Singh had blamed the BJP for constantly disrupting Parliament and vitiating the political atmosphere by making wild allegations.