New Delhi: The Congress launched a social media campaign Thursday called #SpeakUpIndia, targeting the Narendra Modi dispensation for the loss of jobs due to the Covid lockdown — in what appeared to be the party’s attempt to puncture the BJP’s projection of the government’s achievements on its upcoming anniversary.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in a video message, said crores of jobs were lost and livelihoods destroyed due to the lockdown. “But the government didn’t take note of it. So we have decided to start this campaign. We request the government to open its coffers and help the needy,” Gandhi said.
As part of the campaign, Gandhi presented a list of demands before the Modi government, which included an immediate transfer of Rs 10,000 to the poor, and a monthly transfer of Rs 7,500 for six months.
“Give Rs 7,500 to every (needy) family every month for 6 months, and provide Rs 10,000 immediately. Ensure safe and free travel for the laborers travelling home, and increase the number of workdays under MGNREGA to 200 days,” Gandhi said. At present, 100 days of employment is promised under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, too used the #SpeakUpIndia hashtag to present his demands.
It's time for every Indian to stand together & speak up in one voice. #SpeakUpIndia
for our brothers & sisters struggling for survival;
for those whose voice has been silenced;
for those in despair & are fearful.
We are India.
Together we can make a difference. pic.twitter.com/7Q6R2rcWuP
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 28, 2020
While neither Gandhi nor Rahul used the term ‘NYAY scheme’ for the cash transfer, some party leaders mentioned it.
Congress MP from Assam Gaurav Gogoi, in his video appeal, said: “The government must immediately give the poor Rs 10,000, and start Rahul Gandhi’s NYAY scheme under which the poor get Rs 7,500 every month,” he said.
I’ve raised my voice to support the demand for immediate cash support of Rs 10,000 to the poor and start of NYAY scheme of Rs 7,500 on a monthly basis. Together we must help our migrant workers who have suffered pain and irreparable losses. Time for you to join #SpeakUpIndia pic.twitter.com/6P4xf2ksyA
— Gaurav Gogoi (@GauravGogoiAsm) May 28, 2020
NYAY or Nyuntam Aay Yojana was a scheme proposed by the Congress ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Under NYAY, the Congress had promised a monthly transfer of Rs 6,000 in the accounts of the poor.
BJP efforts to salvage its image
The Congress’ campaign comes two days ahead of the Modi government’s first anniversary in its second term.
The BJP had announced it will hold “virtual rallies” across the country and organise over 1,000 online conferences to mark what it calls a year of “historic achievements”.
Besides the anniversary celebration plans, the BJP last week also launched a concerted drive to publicise the steps it has taken to provide relief to the migrants and the poor as the party was concerned that its popularity has taken a beating due to the migrant crisis amid the Covid lockdown.
The party also found a peculiar way to talk about its work in tackling the Covid and the migrant crises by holding interviews of Union ministers by spokespersons of the BJP itself.
Over the last week, the party had its spokespersons Nalin Kohli, Sambit Patra, G.V.L. Narsimha Rao and Sudhanshu Trivedi interview Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, and IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, respectively.
Priyanka Gandhi, Tharoor join campaign
Congress in-charge for eastern Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also participated in the #SpeakUpIndia campaign, so did Kerala MP Shashi Tharoor who did an Instagram live, reiterating the need for cash transfers by the government.
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) May 28, 2020
The list of demands put forward by the Congress in its #SpeakUpIndia campaign is very similar to the ones raised last Friday by 22 opposition parties.
Until last week, the Congress was avoiding any direct criticism of the government, trying to present itself as a constructive opposition. However, Monday, Rahul Gandhi in a press conference did not mince his words while criticising the government and asserted the nationwide lockdown has “failed”.
This was followed by his interaction with health experts Wednesday on the issues of testing for the virus as well as easing out the lockdown.
Congress doing politics over corona: BJP
Reacting to the Congress campaign, the BJP said the party is playing politics in the name of coronavirus.
“Why doesn’t Congress go ahead and implement all these points in the states ruled by them? We all know Maharashtra is the state struggling the most due to the pandemic. It should help the people there,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told ThePrint.
Rahul Tuesday sought to distance Congress from the Maharashtra government’s handling of the Covid crisis, saying it only played a “supporting role” in the state.
“We are already helping the farmers and the poor, Congress toh bas corona ke kandhe pe rajneeti kar rahi hai (Congress is just doing politics in the name of corona),” Hussain said.