India’s main opposition Congress party has promised income support for each poor family who earn less than 12,000 rupees ($174.30) per month as part of its electoral giveaways aimed at wresting power from PM Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition.
Describing it as the world’s largest minimum income plan, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said 20 percent of poor families across the country would receive 72,000 rupees annually if the party comes to power.
“It is an extremely powerful, dynamic and well-thought through idea,” Gandhi said at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday, adding 50 million families, or 250 million people, will benefit from the scheme. “The final assault on poverty has begun. We will wipe out poverty from the country.”
Congress’s pledge comes as Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is banking on about 220 million Indians it says directly benefited from the government’s flagship programmes — providing toilets, electricity connections, houses, cooking gas, crop insurance and loans for small businesses.
The Congress, which won just 44 seats in 2014’s national vote versus Modi’s 282, is looking to leverage recent state election victories that came on the back of widening disenchantment over Modi’s policies on jobs and agriculture.
“The catch here is, how would they find out who makes how much given the nature of India’s informal economy?” said Abhijit Sen, Delhi-based economist and former member of India’s Planning Commission.
“Unless you can measure that, it sounds like a very preliminary, undergraduate exercise.”
India’s general elections will take place in seven phases between April 11 and May 19, with results to be announced on May 23.
The Congress party is also likely to pledge a one-time farm loan write off and focus on “ have nots” in a bid to win voters.