New Delhi: Narendra Modi was today attacked by the Congress after the Gujarat government suggested that it was using Rs 10.80 a day as the limit to identify subsidy beneficiaries, drawing a sharp retort from BJP which claimed states were only following the criteria set out by the Centre.
Latching on to the BPL criteria of people earning below Rs 10.80 daily found on a Gujarat government website, Congress lashed out at BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, asking him to apologise to the poor for “insulting” and making a “mockery” of them.
AICC Communication Department Chairman Ajay Maken also reminded Modi and his party that BJP had made a big issue of Planning Commission’s Below Poverty Line (BPL) figure of Rs 32 and Rs 28 a day in urban and rural areas and had described it as a “joke”.
He asked if pegging earning below Rs 32 per day is a joke then how can the Modi government fixing the BPL limit to Rs 10.80 be described.
He also released a copy of the website page of Gujarat government regarding the BPL critieria for consideration of families to be covered under the Antodaya Yojana in the state, which said that under the scheme those families, whose members’ average monthly income is Rs 324 in rural areas and up to Rs 501 in urban areas in a month are covered.
The wesbsite also said that while the government fixed the number of BPL families in the state at 13.10 lakh, the state has covered 24.30 lakh BPL families.
“So as to ensure that in adddition to 13.1 lakh BPL families fixed by the Government of India, remaining 11.2 lakh BPL families also get foodgrain of 35 Kilogram per month, the state government allocates food grains on priority basis to such BPL families, which is made available under APL scheme,” it said.
Hitting back at the Congress, BJP said this criteria was decided by the Centre in 2004 and states were instructed to follow it.
Asking Congress to “go back to the drawing room and do its homework”, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said deciding the BPL criteria was Centre’s prerogative.
She said many reminders have been sent by the Gujarat government to the Centre asking it to review the criteria.
She said if one went by Centre’s methodology of poverty, in Gujarat only 21 lakh BPL families would have benefited. But the Gujarat government had made sure that 11 lakh more families were added to the list of beneficiaries.
Maken, however, questioned the need for the state government’s circular, which he said was posted on the webiste on December 16 last year, when most of the central government schemes including food security have already been delinked from BPL.
He said states can decide whom to include in the list of beneficiaries on the basis of household deficiency, social deficiency and economic and occupational deficiency.
“Leaders and spokespersons of the BJP were mocking the poverty determination figures given by the Planning Commission. Now we ask the BJP and Modi, why Gujarat government’s civil supply department talked about BPL below Rs 10.80.
“People of the country want to know this. By giving this figure is Modi-led BJP government not playing a joke with people. BJP and Modi both should apologize to the nation, to the poor for insulting and making a mockery of them,” he said.
Maken also alleged that the BJP and its leaders were “misleading” the nation earlier over Planning Commission’s poverty figures.
To a question as to whether he justifies the fixation of BPL at Rs 32 in urban areas and Rs 28 in rural areas, the AICC leader replied in the negative, saying “We are not defending Rs 32 BPL criteria. The only point we are making is that if Rs 32 criteria was a joke, then what should the Rs 10.80 criteria be called.”
Responding to another question regarding Rahul Gandhi’s earlier directive to Congress Chief Ministers to ensure that fruits and vegetables are kept out of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act so that their prices are brought down, the Congress leader that most of the states have done it.
“The states in which this provision was put in have already amended their rules, while in some states, where these provisions are part of the Act will do it after amending the act during Budget session in their assemblies in February,” he said.