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Congress’s Praveen Chakravarty says no ‘internal strife’, day after comment on Old Pension Scheme

In a tweet Monday, Chakravarty said the 'Old Pension Scheme will cost roughly 15% of tax revenues' in Gujarat. The Congress has distanced itself from his comment.

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New Delhi: A day after Congress leader and Chairman of its Data and Analytics Department, Praveen Chakravarty, questioned the party’s move of bringing back the old pension scheme (OPS), he clarified Wednesday that there was no “internal strife”.

The Congress has promised to bring the OPS scheme back in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat if it comes to power.

In a tweet Tuesday, Chakravarty had said that the “old pension scheme will cost roughly 15% of tax revenues” in Gujarat. The Congress, however, distanced itself from his comment.

“Out of 6.5 crore (65 mn) people in Gujarat, about 3 lakh (300k) are in govt service. The old pension scheme will cost roughly 15% of tax revenues. Why should the top 0.5% of people get 15% of all taxpayers’ money as post-retirement pension?” Chakravarty asked.

He was responding to a news article written by former NITI Aayog Chairman Arvind Panagariya.

On Tuesday, Mohan Kumaramangalam, one of the working presidents of Tamil Nadu Congress (from where Chakravarty hails) also tweeted saying Chakravarty’s statement should not be seen as a “divide” in the party’s line.

“It is merely the case of an individual who is neither a spokesperson not the president nor a senior leader in the Congress party expressing his personal view. Let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill”, said Kumaramangalam.

Congress General Secretary In-charge of Communications, Jairam Ramesh, retweeted Kumaramangalam’s tweet to say, “I agree entirely”.

At a press conference, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said, “I don’t think there is any contradiction whatsoever, absolutely no contradiction. Two of our governments, whether it is in Rajasthan or Chhattisgarh, have brought back OPS because there was a huge demand from the people.”

She added, “There are three lakh government employees in Himachal Pradesh and all they seek is OPS. So the governments of the day or politicians of the day or political outfits of the day have to respond to the needs of people. Why do you think there is a demand for it? Because there is huge economic collapse around us, people are no longer assured of their income and so they want OPS back. We have to be a dynamic political party and react to people and their demands.”

Sources close to Chakravarty pointed out that his statement was made after the Himachal Pradesh elections where OPS was the party’s main poll plank. It is a “side promise” in Gujarat where the party is fighting on the back of issues such as inflation and unemployment, they added.

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What is OPS

The OPS, which was discarded by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government in 2004, was replaced by the New Pension Scheme (NPS). Under OPS, which was completely government funded, retired employees were to get 50 per cent of their last drawn salary after retirement.

The NPS, however, is a contributory pension scheme under which employees contribute 10 per cent of their salary while the government contributes 14 per cent to a pension fund. At the time of retirement, employees are required to purchase an annuity plan from an approved pension provider to avail a monthly pension with a minimum 40 per cent of the accumulated corpus. The rest can be withdrawn lump sum by the employee.

The Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh governments, both led by Congress, have reverted to the OPS. The Jharkhand government, where the Congress is an alliance partner, has also done the same.

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