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“I am hiding from the bank officials for the las 4 months, Congress had promised loan waiver in 10 days… nothing has happened to my loan of 90000 rupees” says Bhawani Singh near Jalore in Rajasthan, “and you are asking us about 72000 that Congress is now promising?” he bursts out angrily. “Nobody in our village believes Congress will give even 10 rupees, they are all thieves who got our votes and then disappeared.” he concludes with finality.

“My family in the village are traditional Congress voters, I don’t know who they are voting this time, but I voted for Modi” said a young lawyer, Mamata Valikar in the Bijapur (Karnataka) court. She belongs to a EBC community in the state and she asserted that “Congress makes only promises but never fulfils them after coming to power” when asked about the NYAY scheme of 72000 rupees per annum poll promise.

“This scheme is only for Muslims and backwards” said Ramgovind Pandey with utmost confidence in Ghatampur assembly segment of Kanpur Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh. “We will get nothing, why should we vote for Congress?” he asked further and then went on to add, “Modi ji’s schemes are for everybody, all have got gas connections and 2000 rupees in their accounts, he doesn’t discriminate like this”.

These are some of the sample voices we have heard over the last one month across India. Ever since the NYAY scheme of 72000 rupees per annum to bottom 20% of population poll promise by Congress party has been announced, we have relentlessly tracked this in our polls across India. We initially believed that such a poll promise could be a game-changer move by the main opposition party, just like its “loan waiver” promises in the assembly elections of last November. Data from the ground over the last one month has shown that the NYAY scheme has actually been counterproductive for the Congress party in the national elections.

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Not surprisingly, less than a third of the total voters are aware of the scheme in the first place, simply because Congress has not spread the message wide. Whoever is managing this campaign in the Congress party clearly has very little understanding of India. Why would you advertise this scheme in English newspapers and big billboards of metro cities when your target is the bottom 20% of the population? The rural awareness of the scheme is much less than in urban areas which is again speaking to the wrong audience, because 72000 rupees per annum makes a big difference to people’s lives in Indian villages.

As you can see the highest awareness about NYAY is in the city state of Delhi, probably because of a relentless advertising campaign. This is followed by the neighbouring state of Rajasthan which is ruled by the Congress party, but surprisingly it is in this state that least number of voters believe in this Congress promise. In fact, what we have witnessed in Rajasthan so far is a kind of “buyer’s remorse” for having voted out the BJP government just a few months ago believing in Congress poll promises.

What must be noted here is that even in Congress ruled states like Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the awareness levels have not touched 50%. If less than one out of two voters know about your game changing scheme even in states ruled by your party, there is something fundamentally wrong about your outreach programs. In contrast, the awareness about central government’s PM-KISAN scheme which gives direct benefit of 6000 rupees to poor farmers (who own 2 hectares or less agricultural land) is quite high at above 60% almost everywhere in rural India, in fact, in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat awareness levels for this Modi scheme even touched 80%. What is more, we found at least a couple of farmers in almost every village who have already received 2000 rupees as first installment of the PM-KISAN scheme. (The NYAY tracker poll across India is being carried out in parallel to our normal polling activity. All the data of NYAY tracker is from those geographies that have already voted, except for Delhi where we are doing a tracker for a client.)

When we further analyzed our data from the NYAY tracker, we realized that awareness is highest among forward castes and the middle class, while being least among Schedule Castes which is again counterproductive simply because middle class and upper caste voters have the highest misgivings about the scheme and it is this segment of the population that is angry with the Congress scheme.

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“Very few voters are aware of it, and those who are aware think this (NYAY) scheme is not for them, but for others” this is how K.T. Patil, a Congress leader from Gulbarga (Karnataka) summed it up in the thick of campaign. “Rahul Gandhi has put us in a spot here because Hindus are not voting for our candidate as it is (he meant leader of the UPA, Mallikarjun Kharge in the Gulbarga LS seat), now we have to further explain that NYAY is not meant only for Muslims and SCs… it is a huge headache” he rued.

This is a real problem that the architects of this scheme were probably not aware of. This is what happens when you ask some economist in a foreign university to design a scheme for India, Rahul Gandhi should have known better. When you make a poll promise of a dole scheme with riders attached, it creates total confusion in the voters’ minds. Whoever brought the 20% condition for NYAY scheme has made Congress lose more votes than it gained in this election. Rahul’s mother, at least, had better set of advisers, she never applied conditions when she brought NREGA in 2005. As we understand from our ground work, there are 5 major problem areas with NYAY that is hurting the Congress party.

  1. Little awareness means about 70% of the voters don’t even know that Congress has a certain scheme which may be more attractive than what Modi has offered till now, like free LPG, free healthcare, 6000 rupees for poor farmers etc. What this means is that these 70% don’t even have the choice on voting day.
  2. Awareness is skewed towards more urban, more middle class and more upper caste voters who generally tend to believe that this scheme is meant only for backward castes and Muslims because of that 20% rider. Conversely, among that section of population, like say the SCs and EBCs, where NYAY could have found better traction, the awareness is the lowest – this is possibly the single biggest reason why NYAY is being counterproductive this election season.
  3. The 20% conditional access has created a great deal of confusion among voters. There are so many rumours and stories about it, that even those who are aware of it have way too many doubts. In one village near Hathras, a BSP worker confidently told us that only those families that are traditional Congress voters will be eligible for the NYAY scheme, he even pointed out houses of his village that will get NYAY. This 20% rider should have been better explained, for it has created a lot of heartburn among many communities.
  4. NYAY is suffering its worst fate in Congress ruled states because here the party’s track record of fulfilling its past promises is abysmal. In essence, the voters are simply refusing to believe the Congress party, so it doesn’t matter if Rahul Gandhi promises them the moon.
  5. Among those who say that they do “believe” that Congress will implement the NYAY scheme, the highest percentage is that of Muslim voters who in any case were going to vote for the Congress party and will not really add much to the party’s base.

 

One man who is aware of NYAY not only flopping badly, but hurting the Congress party this poll season is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who understands the pulse of the nation like nobody else does. This is why after harping about it in his first public rally in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, at the start of the electioneering, he has barely mentioned NYAY again. Thus, we can now be sure that on counting day, Indian middle class will heave a sigh of relief that India has managed to save a minimum of 360000 crore rupees of tax payers money every year by not voting for Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party.