File photo | NYAY campaign on the Delhi-Mumbai highway near Valsad, April | Photo: Shivam Vij/ThePrint
File photo | NYAY campaign on the Delhi-Mumbai highway near Valsad, April | Photo: Shivam Vij/ThePrint
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Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress party felt India needed a universal basic income of sorts. Its plan was called NYAY, the Nyunatam Aay Yojana. The idea was that no Indian family should live on less than Rs 6,000 a month. If they do, the government must give them the shortfall.

The Congress lost the election badly and forgot all about NYAY. Despite projecting it as a dole of Rs 72,000 a year, NYAY failed to win votes for the Congress because it was launched with a very poor campaign, just a few days before polling began. Ideas take time and effort to spread. Even a banal, hollow slogan like “New India 2022” gained currency because Prime Minister Narendra Modi used it for two years, from 2017 to 2019 (and has now dumped).

India’s slowdown is arguably the biggest economic crisis since 1991. Lakhs of people have lost their jobs, incomes and wages are stagnating, not leaving people with enough money even to buy essentials like underwear and biscuits.

The winter of 2019, even more than the summer of 2019, is ripe for a real NYAY campaign. As PM Narendra Modi claims all is well and India is on its way to becoming a $5-trillion economy, the Congress and the opposition at large could throw him a simple challenge: universal basic income. The challenge could be refined further: give either a job or minimum basic income to every family. ‘Naukri ya NYAY’.

If India is doing as well as Modi claims, no Indian family should be earning less than Rs 6,000 a month. And if one is, then the government should step in with help.

There will be many benefits of a NYAY campaign, if undertaken today.


Also read: If anything can defeat Modi, it’s the economy


The upper hand

First, it will help the opposition set the agenda. Mostly it is the Modi government that gets to set the agenda and the opposition only reacts. What the opposition has to say becomes irrelevant, because the entire conversation becomes about what the government is proposing. Can India be a $5-trillion economy by 2024 or not? Should Indians be able to buy land in Kashmir or not? Do we need an all-India National Register of Citizens to identify illegal immigrants or not? Should there be a Ram Mandir at the demolished Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya or not?

The answer to these questions does not matter, because the questions are framed in a way that all answers benefit the ruling establishment. Even if you say India can’t be a $5-trillion economy by 2024, you will end up highlighting that it is what Modi is working towards. What is the opposition working towards? No one knows. The upper hand in politics belongs to the one who sets the agenda.

A NYAY campaign will serve to set the agenda in a way that benefits the opposition. No matter how the Modi government responds, it will help the opposition and hurt the ruling party. If the government accepts it, it will be a victory for the opposition. If the government rejects or ignores it, it will look like it doesn’t care for the suffering of the poor and those losing jobs. If the government says it is a bad idea, impractical idea, that there isn’t enough money to do it and so on, it will make people talk about what the opposition is proposing to improve the lives of Indians.


Also read: Congress underestimated Modi ‘cult’, NYAY was announced too late: Shashi Tharoor


Raison d’être 

Second, a NYAY campaign will give the opposition a cause. Rudderless and listless, the opposition desperately needs a reason to justify its existence. If you look at the Congress party’s non-campaign in Maharashtra and Haryana, you’ll see the opposition has given up all hope. The BJP has reached such a dominating peak that the opposition has given up any hope of winning any election any time soon.

By campaigning for NYAY, the opposition would give itself a cause. The leaders and cadres deserting opposition ranks will see that the opposition parties still have the ability to put up a fight. By waging a do-or-die battle to get the people of India universal basic income, the opposition could inject some life in itself and come out of coma.

Trust is everything

The opposition today suffers from a credibility crisis and a trust deficit among the masses, as the Lok Sabha election results showed. Part of the reason for the failure of NYAY in the Lok Sabha elections was the trust deficit between the Congress and a large number of swing voters. There are many reasons for this trust deficit, one of which is that the opposition comes across as being interested in nothing other than winning elections. Modi, on the other hand, believes in permanent campaigning, giving the impression that he thinks about people’s welfare every single day.

The Congress party had announced in mid-September that it would launch an agitation on economic issues in mid-October, but there is no sign of it. How is anyone to take the Congress party seriously? Not that any of the regional opposition parties are doing any better.

A NYAY campaign today, leading up to the next budget session in February, will help restore the opposition’s credibility before the electorate. It will show the opposition cares about people’s suffering due to the economic slowdown and rising unemployment. More importantly, people will see the opposition is not merely criticising the government for rising unemployment but offering a solution to alleviate people’s distress. There’s no campaign like a positive campaign.


Also read: What Abhijit Banerjee and Thomas Piketty missed in their study of Indian voter behaviour


Countering Hindutva

Third, a NYAY campaign could cause a counter-polarisation against Hindutva. With Kashmir, NRC, Ram Mandir and so on, 2019 is the bumper crop year of Hindutva. Parliament’s winter session from 18 November to 13 December (to be extended last minute to clearly bring in some new law without giving prior notice) will see the Modi government focus on Hindutva and identity politics in order to shift public attention away from the economic slowdown.

At such a time, a NYAY campaign will help the opposition counter the politics of religious polarisation. The opposition could shift the debate from ‘Do you support Ram Mandir?’ to ‘Do you support NYAY?’ The opposition might then walk out not against Ram mandir, but against the government’s refusal to bring in universal basic income.


Also read: With cash transfers, both BJP and Congress are showing no imagination in fighting poverty


Membership drive 

The BJP and others might well say that Indian voters have already rejected NYAY. How is it that farmers voted for Modi for Rs 6,000 a year, but people even poorer than these marginal farmers don’t want Rs 6,000 a month? The failure was of the campaign, not of the idea.

A smarter NYAY campaign this time should be about going door to door, asking the poor the sign on a NYAY petition, building public momentum from the grassroots even if the media ignores the opposition’s campaign. Such mass movements also make passionate young people join political parties.

The fourth benefit of a NYAY campaign, therefore, will be to strengthen the opposition’s rank and file.

Views are personal.

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36 Comments Share Your Views

36 COMMENTS

  1. I have reading the print since last few months but never came to such crap where everything is just what opposition needs, there is no mention of the real reason why must is best. I mean there should have been at least some logical reference to what could have if perceived but all they care iss because opposition needs a cause, because opposition needs something..lol at print for such bullshit news.

  2. Can you flog a dead horse to life? Why do you persist Shivam Vij? Stop the self-humiliation. Join the good side.

  3. It is not as if NYAY is a bad idea, but the COngress today cannot make use of even good ideas. This is because of the sloth and devil may care attitude of Rahul gandhi . Otherwise he would have campaigned for NYAY hammer and tongs in Maharashtra and Haryana. Instead he kept up the same tale of Rafale etc.
    Even his close colleagues must be disheartened now and must be wishing that he simply leaves for good so that they can try a hand at campaigning.

  4. Shivam writes virtually one article a day and pontificates . Most are inane . Best to ignore him . Sadly THE PRINT has given him platform to write rubbish

    • You’re one more with severe problems of logic. Nowhere in the article the name of Rahul is mentioned.

      What do they teach in Indian universities?

  5. 1. Opposition today consists of Indian National Congress, the Left parties and many regional parties (who have no national agenda and who are simply not capable of providing a stable government in the Centre). 2. As regards Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme (MIGS) or NYAY, let us not overlook fact that MIGS providing income guarantee of Rs 72,000/- per year to all the Below Poverty Line or BPL families is an unviable proposition. Total outgo of such a scheme would be huge, and unbearable. My view is that if Congress and its alliance parties wish to press for MIGS with Rs 72,000/- as income guaranteed per year, they will have to explain how the government can raise resources for that kind of outgo. 3. My suggestion to opposition parties would be to undertake Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats or SWOT study of each party. I think the SWOT study will be of considerable utility to all opposition parties if it is undertaken in an unbiased manner by independent researchers. 4. If BJP is to be defeated in Lok Sabha election in 2024, Congress and other opposition parties will have to show their unity and strength and come forward with a viable economic and social agenda. Merely playing with schemes like NYAY will be of little assistance in defeating BJP.

  6. Shivam wishes to be Prashant Kishor for Congress for free. Nyay failed because a voter who if he is tax payer, would not vote for it as his taxes will increase to pay for the scheme ( in effect, he would vote to pay the bill for Congress!) and if he is not a tax payer, he would not vote as he or she could hardly believe that the dole of Rs. 6,000 as promised by Congress would be actually paid. It was a stupid idea without first undertaking many other taxation and subsidies related reform. But that is not issue with Shivam, as his main motive is to proffer advice to remove Modi and BJP from power! If Congress now supports the scheme again, it will have to explain how it will finance it. Congress messed it up last time as it could not give answer to this question. So Shivam, your travails will continue for a long time!! But you are brilliant and I am sure you will come out another stunner next week!!

    • This is true. I, as a tax payer would never support schemes that take money out of my pocket to give it to others as a freebies. But then, Congress is notorious for undertaking such grand schemes that do little to alleviate the real problems the poor in this country face.

    • NYAY probably isn’t good economics but it could be good politics if managed well. Remember that only 2-3% of population pay income tax and farmers, big or small, pay no tax at all for their produce. Middle class will definitely suffer but poor, which is many in India, will benefit. Modi’s ayushman bharat, PM KISAN and LPG , which are also freebies, probably won more votes than economic growth (which the government didn’t perform any better than UPA). Congress probably lost because of stench of UPA2 corruptions and lack of quality leadership rather than because of NYAY

  7. I couldn’t agree more. Now is the time for the opposition to ser the agenda. What with Piyush Goel, Sitharaman and Prasad type voodoo economics clutching at anything clutchable, now is the time for the opposition to get their act together.

  8. Only Shivam Vij and ThePrint are hell bent to rejuvenate Khongress party for which Pappu and his party leadership themselves not interested. …… Khongressis themselves are not behaving like a responsible opposition party……. Khongressis could not digest their defeat even after six months of defeat…. Khongressis with their leader Pappu still think that they are defeated by EVMs…..

    Shivam wants an opposition party that is understood but he wants Khongress itself to emerge as a ruling party next time, even after Khongress’s ten years disastrous rule speaks volumes about Shivam’s credibility. …..

    Media particularly English media tried its best that people should forget the follies of Khongress during MMS rule….

    Hope by next election Shivam may get his due from Khongress by contesting electionx on Khongress ticket…..

    Like Kumar Ketkar supported Khongress as a Journalist and getting Rajya sabha Seat….

  9. The author seems to be recommending Congress go back to its age old strategy of ‘Garibi Hatao’. NYAY seems to have got another lease of life with the Economics Nobel Prize being awarded to Prof Banerjee. I would like to remind the author that the Nobel prize was given for Randomized Control trials and not the Universal Basic Income. The jury is still out on UBI and there is no evidence yet about its efficacy. As of now it is nothing more than a cash splash driving the economy into massive deficit

  10. !! Asatyam Shivam Sadaa Sandesham !!

    ThePrint… please.. we want NYAY ! Give us relief from this Shivam We…zzzzz until Pappu becomes PM. Hey Bhagawan.. Daya karo!

          • I put the question back to you: did *you* read the article? If you did, and have commented that Shiv wants Rahul as PM, then you have serious problem of comprehension and logic (like so many others who comment here). Go back and reread the article: he has not even used the word Rahul once. It’s a generic article on how the Congress (anf the Opposition) can use the Rs. 72K figure to change the agenda.

            Presuming that so many of the BJP supporters who comment here are well-educated, it is a cause for grave concern that so few of them have any sense of logic. No wonder that the BJP keeps winning.

          • Elementary.. Mr. Watson! Look up and see the photo used for the article.
            Logic & no-Rahul gaye Pardes mein!!

          • So that photo is supposed to show that the article is supporting Rahul? It’s worse than I thought.

            You *are* a porn expert, no more.

          • It’s not abuse. It’s exasperation. You miss the flow of the whole article and focus on a photo of the NYAY scheme to prove that Shivam is rooting for Rahul. That’s more than what I can stomach.

          • Actually, I did not even comment on Rahul. Since you mentioned it, I pointed out the disconnect between the picture and article. “A picture is worth more than 1000 words”. In Shivam`s case, it is 1000 useless words. After initial attempts to make sense of his articles, I stopped.

            Nowadays, I see a new narrative to detach Rahul from NYAY (or similar failed attempts) from media/ your comments. You know what? However much you try for it, ‘Prince of Misfires’ – Rahul somehow makes sure it fails (either by tweet/pressmeet/soundbyte).
            To put it bluntly, he is ‘Betal for the Congress’. They don’t know how to get rid of him off their back.
            Read Ruhi’s column on Rahul Gandhi today. She has repeated the same point in multiple ways.

          • Your very first comment starts with pappu..and why this focus anyway on him? He’s out of the picture. Congress will take care of him. Why not focus on more serious issues like the economy? The mess made by Modi has
            badly damaged India. And not only Demonetization. See how he backed Trump when it was clear to everyone with a bit of intelligence that he was about to be impeached. These are not trivial errors. And he keeps winning elections using incredible tactics (killing Pakistan soldiers a day before the elections in Maharashtra and Haryana).

  11. The Opposition needs to hang together, or they will most assuredly hang separately. Whether NYAY is the elixir that will rejuvenate them, one cannot say. MoF is projecting a two trillion revenue shortfall this year. It is not as if someone will press the button on Raisina Hill and 72,000 rupees – remember 15 lacs ? – will flow into each poor family’s bank account. Both the government and the opposition need to study the economic situation and have their plans ready. The former is more accountable / responsible in a democracy. 2. I neither admire nor detest Shri Rahul Gandhi, although one honestly cannot see prime ministerial qualities in him. Five years remain. The opposition needs to regroup, get its act together. Nothing is permanent in politics.

    • You sir, (Mr Ashok) are known in this forum for your balanced views and even you, I notice, have been affected by this virus of thinking in black and white. The problem with everybody (not just in India) is thinking about problems and issues in binaries. Everything is either good or bad – no weightage or thought is given to the grey areas in between when all our lived experience tells us that issues are seldom black and white and it is the grey area in between that dominates. The trick of this government is to make everyone think of issues in binaries – one is Rama and one is Raavan. Everything one does is right and everything the other does is wrong. Let me ask you a question – if you have a daughter and would like her to marry a man, who would you like the man to be – someone like Mr Modi or someone like Mr Gandhi? Must one be a better human first and then a better PM or is being a better PM enough? A better PM can only be so much – a better human has vast potential to be so much more.

      • NM – My question to you. Should the girl marry someone who has shirked responsibility, when he had every opportunity to do so (like any rich brat that one sees in Hindi movies) or someone who actually took responsibility, made a difference that could be showcased? Where’s ‘leadership’ in your argument? Leaders can be good or bad. Modi can be a bad leader, but does that make Rahul a good leader? In fact is he a leader at all?

        Finally, what kind of a game is this in the potentially most potent opposition party in the country that mother quits, son takes over, fails and quits and mother takes over? Give this a thought please, independent of Modi’s lousy performance. Modi is RAVANA for sure but does that make Rahul maryada purush Ram?

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