New wine in an old bottle: Headline-grabbing sound bytes by Congress would do little to salvage its pride

Faced with a slew of programmes and schemes unleashed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA, the Congress has adopted a strategy which is both amusing and unworkable. Not finding itself in a sound position to meaningfully counter them, the opposition party has begun to dismiss them as old wine in new bottle — a wine that had been initially been brewed by previous Congress regimes. Such a strategy may have resulted in sharp one-liners and headline-grabbing sound bytes, but it does little to salvage the Congress’s pride. The party’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, on Monday claimed that the BJP regime’s various announcements on housing, healthcare, sanitation, rural electrification, and the drive to connect millions of Indians into the formal banking sector, had all been initiated by Congress Governments, but are now being presented by the incumbent regime as its own. This made the BJP more of a name-changer than a game-changer, he smirked.

Let’s assume for a moment for the sake of argument that the Congress assault is justified — though, in reality, it isn’t. If its Government had indeed opened three-fourth of the bank accounts which the BJP regime is now claiming to be part of the Jan Dhan Yojana, why had the Congress Government then not leveraged this advantage in matters of direct benefits transfers or linked those accounts to Aadhaar to offer the best services to the needy sections of the population? Nobody is saying that schemes hadn’t existed before for rural electrification or healthcare insurance, but there is no denying that they had been tardily implemented. Besides, these programmes were not ambitious in scale and thus benefited only a small section of the population and in small measures. The Congress says that Swachh Bharat is nothing but a version of the earlier Nirmal Bharat. So, can the Congress talk about the success of Nirmal Bharat? How many toilets had been constructed, especially in rural India? What measures had been taken to raise the levels of consciousness over cleanliness? The new healthcare insurance scheme which the Government announced recently seeks to cover nearly 40 percent of the country’s most needy population. This was surely not done by previous Governments.

Instead of running down the BJP merely for the sake of doing so, the Congress must acknowledge the good work being done. By all means, it must also keep a focus on slippages and highlight them. That is how the party will rebuild its credibility.


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