Congress’ Overblown Promises Ahead of 2024 Polls

The best jiffy moment has always been Aladdin’s magic lamp but Rahul Gandhi’s “khatakhat khatakhat” claim could well be the new one, writes Deepika Bhan

The pressure of staying relevant in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls seems to be forcing Congress to promise the moon and the sun to people. A manifestation of this is the slew of promises made by Rahul Gandhi just ahead of the polls.

During his election speech in Rajasthan last week, he had said: “The Congress government will transfer Rs one lakh to the bank account of a woman from every poor family in the country… khatakhat khatakhat aata rahega aur ek jhatke se hum Hindustan se gareebi ko mita denge (it will come instantly and, we will remove poverty from Hindustan).”

The best jiffy moment has always been Aladdin’s magic lamp but Rahul Gandhi’s “khatakhat khatakhat” claim could well be the new one. The closest translation of Khatakhat, a Hindi word, could be jiffy or in one stroke or instant. And, instant for most of the present-day generation is always noodles, a Chinese-origin food item.

As all political parties are making promises to woo the electorate, the perpetual youth leader of his party offered the ultimate ‘Khatakhat’ solution to address poverty in the nick of 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The solution is a sharp contrast to the statement that Rahul Gandhi made 11 years ago in Uttar Pradesh when he said that “poverty is a state of mind.”

In August 2013, the Congress leader was participating in a discussion in Uttar Pradesh when he said: “Poverty is just a state of mind. It does not mean the scarcity of food, money or material things. If one possesses self-confidence, then one can overcome poverty.” To prove his point, he even cited the example of a poor woman from Amethi, who got hold of her life by taking help from Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana.

If, in 2013, Rahul believed that providing the right atmosphere to earn and sustain can help tackle poverty, then why the U-turn in 2024? A decade of sitting in the opposition has made the Congress scion believe that promising doles is the only way to impress people. And the khatakhat system of transferring money in accounts is the easiest way to the hearts of people. Had it been so easy then Karnataka and Telangana economies would not have been struggling with fulfilling the pre-election promises on guarantees. Various development activities have almost stopped and legislators, even from the Congress, are unhappy as fund flow is slow.

Overlooking the ground realities, Rahul also made another equally startling promise which is to do a wealth survey, very much a Communist idea that actually originates from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist Manifesto. Rahul Gandhi said that if voted to power, his government would conduct a caste census to know the exact population and status of backward communities, SCs, STs and minorities. After that, the financial and institutional survey will be done and finally, the “historic assignment to distribute the wealth of India, jobs and other welfare schemes to these sections based on their population” will be done.

History has examples of several countries under the influence of Communism going for this concept, but after suffering the ill effects, decided to change again. China tried the same in the 1960s but failed and finally reworked its policies. Today, China’s economy is huge with a rise in wealth, private properties and income gaps. But, in India, the Congress scion is seeking the 1848 idea for developing the country where youths constitute 66 per cent of the population.

By talking about wealth distribution, he also appears to be taking an about-turn from the liberal economic model of 1991. It was Manmohan Singh, the then Finance Minister in P. V. Narasimha Rao’s government, who presented a landmark budget, ushering in a new dawn for the country’s economy. Since then, India has not looked back.

Rahul Gandhi, with such withered and weird ideas, is seeking to impress the youth of the country who want to move ahead and not get entangled in caste and religion wars. It is an aspirational India in 2024 which is seeking new opportunities to grow, prosper and lead.

With less than a week to go for the first phase of elections on April 19, what has the Congress shaped itself into? Inner contradictions are galore and its leaders at all levels are just running away with a majority of them picking the lotus merrily. Those abandoning the grand old party’s ship do not hesitate to blame Rahul Gandhi for “suffocating them” and the party for being directionless.

While the BJP has built a strong narrative of developmental politics, the Congress has been unable to come up as a challenger. In fact, it is today seen as a party standing with the corrupt and openly giving impetus to caste politics.

As surveys predict, Congress may find it difficult to even retain the 52 seats that it secured in 2019. The blame squarely rests on the top leadership. There is no Khatakhat genie that can help Rahul Gandhi get even near 100 seats.

His aunt Maneka Gandhi has the best advice for him. He should take a break, she said, and perhaps this could work for him.

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