The United Progressive Alliance is set to sell three inter-connected initiatives — the creation and provision of Aadhaar identity cards, the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme, and a slew of rights-based legislations — as its key achievements in the run-up to the 2014 elections. This, it hopes, will send out a message that it is sincere about ‘inclusive growth’ and addressing administrative inefficiencies.
On Wednesday, the government unveiled a publicity blitzkrieg to showcase outcomes in its decade in power, with a focus on schemes launched in the UPA’s second term. In May, it had launched the first round of ‘Bharat Nirman’ advertisements, which highlighted its achievements on economic growth, infrastructure, connectivity, and social welfare legislations like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
In one ad-spot, an old woman is seen struggling to open a bank account because she did not have documents, which in turn were difficult to get because she did not have an account. Her problems are solved with an Aadhaar card. The tagline, ‘your number, your identity’, and the claim that 39.4 crore people have obtained Aadhaar accompanies the spot. Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Manish Tewari, who launched the campaign, said on the basis of experiences of his constituency, Ludhiana, he could claim there was a ‘groundswell of demand for Aadhaar’.
In another, inter-linked, clip, the same lady then seeks to get her pension, and is assured that she will receive each penny. Referring to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s famous speech, where he said that out of Rs 100, only Rs 15 got to the common person, the clip then fast-forwards to the UPA’s Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme as the panacea for the delivery hurdles. Mr. Tewari claimed this would plug the ‘last mile loophole’.
The campaign then showcases the Food Security Bill, and the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill as legislations which would touch upon ‘fundamental issues’ of people’s lives. But when questioned that these had not yet been ratified by Parliament, Mr. Tewari said his ministry’s role was to put ‘policies and programmes’ of the government in ‘public space’. “Certain issues can be ratified through executive action, and we have done so in the case of Aadhaar and DBT… We hope other parties can rise above partisan interests, and think of national interest... and these can meet the consent of the house.”
The campaign would be showcased in 539 papers, 216 private FM stations, and prominent TV channels in the news and general entertainment segment. A special music video has been prepared targeting the ‘youth and aspirational India’, in the words of one ministry official, and will be telecast on music channels. The outdoor publicity has been planned in 195 cities over 750 sites, in different languages, adapted to local contexts. The Press Information Bureau would be taking the campaign to the grassroots, and has designed specific booklets covering the initiatives in 18 languages.
When the first phase was launched, The Hindu had questioned Mr. Tewari about what appeared to be the use of government resources for the Congress party in the run-up to the polls. He had responded, “This is not a political campaign, but it is important to remember that the Chinese wall between the party and the government is porous since people elect the party to power.”