Manas Dasgupta

He cites UPA Government’s “fantastic and historic” performance in the last five years as the reason

Central assistance to States up by three times

3.50 crore poor people benefited by NREGS

AHMEDABAD: The Union Minister of State for Communication and youth leader, Jyotiraditya Scindia, has expressed confidence that the Congress performance in the coming elections would be “much better” than in 2004 because of the United Progressive Alliance government’s “fantastic and historic” performance in the last five years.

Enumerating the dozen-odd welfare steps taken by the Centre for the common people, farmers and weaker sections of the society, Mr. Scindia said the people could not ignore the facts that the UPA government’s performance in comparison to the previous National Democratic Alliance government’s was much better.

He claimed that in just five years, the Central assistance to the States had gone up by about three times, from Rs. 64,000 crore in 2003-04 to over Rs. 1.77 lakh crore in the current financial year. He disagreed with the argument that non-Congress States like Gujarat were discriminated against by the Centre. As against Rs. 1,800 crore Central assistance provided to Gujarat when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, it was over Rs. 6,400 crore last year — a nearly 400 per cent jump.

He said more than 3.50 crore poor people in the country got the benefit of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme which would be further expanded to cover all needy families if the Congress was voted back to power.

He also claimed that modernisation of the post-offices taken up by his department under its “Project Arrow” programme, which cover 70 per cent of the post-offices in the rural areas, would take the postal facilities equipped with broadband internet connection in the villages to the “22nd century,” much beyond even the current century.

Mr. Scindia refused to comment on the Varun Gandhi episode except to say that it was most regrettable that anyone was trying to damage the social fabric of the country. India was respected among the comity of nations for its secular culture and spiritual outlook, and anything that brought a bad name to the country could never be acceptable.

He also offered no comment on the shifting of the Indian Premier Leagu matches abroad and said it was a conscious decision taken jointly by the States, the Centre and the Board of Control for Cricket in India because the general elections had to be given the maximum priority and everything else was secondary.