Rahul transformed the 'Adha Roti Khayenge, Congress Ko Jitayange' slogan into 'Puri Roti Khayenge, Saw Din Kam Karenge, Dawai lenge, Congress Ko Jitayenge' (the dawai or medicine part is concerned with the free medicine project for the poor started by the Congress government of Rajasthan). He also wooed the audience, their dream was his dream.
Road to poor voters' heart through stomach?
This remarkable obsession with poverty is a unique feature of the Congress leadership over the years. India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had an ideological stand to deal with the social menace but his successors used an apparent fight against poverty a means to win political battles. Rahul's grandmother and former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, had appealed to the people through the famous Garibi Hatao slogan in the 1970s although in reality, it was the Congress which was the biggest beneficiary.
Poverty carried on despite all slogans and populism for obvious reasons
The socialism that Indira Gandhi spoke about had achieved little social equality but a lot of votes. Even one of the current parliamentarians of the Congress had criticised the former PM's socialism. It was more a political tool than an ideological stand, many felt.
The next prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who had amassed a massive majority, also spoke volumes about alleviation of poverty but could do little. The Congress mentored by Sonia Gandhi also used the same weapon to pinprick the inflated balloon of the BJP-led NDA government in 2004 and in 2009 too, the UPA's loan waiver and rural employment schemes worked wonders in the elections.
In 2013, Rahul Gandhi is carrying the same legacy.
But, is 2013 same as the 1970s and 1980s? Can India afford to use economics as a political tool in these trying times? Why did it take so many years for the Congress, which has ruled the nation for most of its post-Independence days, to transform the Adha Roti into a Puri Roti, and that too only verbally? It is also stunning to see a key leader of the ruling party asking people to have a full stomach and vote for his party. In this era of sophistication, such blatant appeal for votes looks very much out of place.
Can slogans eradicate poverty?
None of the Gandhis could eradicate poverty despite coining slogans and adopting populist measures and it is because none of them had thought of an institutionalised way to fight the menace. On the other hand, the Congress has always found a safe shelter in this so-called anti-poverty drive because whenever one speaks about the shortfalls of such drives based on hard facts, the party will find an easy way out to target the critic as anti-poor.
In this way, the Congress has also proceeded with the food security bill this time and has felt frustrated whenever the opposition tried to hinder the passage of the bill. It is a pet project of Sonia Gandhi and the party for it ensures an unbeatable moral high ground, a politically potent weapon.
Poverty, like corruption and rape, can not be wished away through legislation and the current leaders are not fool not to understand that. But still, it is a big political market up for the grabs and the stakes are too high to take a long route to genuine welfare.
Hence it doesn't matter whether the Roti is Adha or Puri, what matters is that one should vote for the Congress after having it.