The Congress is aggressively raising the issue of restoration of the Old Pension Scheme as it is being said that the issue was one of the key reasons behind the grand old party’s victory in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections.
After forming the government in the hill state, as per its poll promise, Congress restored the scheme. Besides Himachal, the Congress government also implemented the scheme in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where the Assembly elections are to be held by the end of this year.
Realising the importance of the issue, the Congress has also included it in its election manifesto for Karnataka, where it has promised to implement the Old Pension Scheme after coming to power.
While the issue has emerged as a ‘lifesaver’ for the grand old party; for the BJP, it is becoming tougher to counter this issue.
It is clearly visible that the Congress is preparing to make it a big issue across the country by the time of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and this is the reason why BJP’s dilemma is rising.
BJP’s national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi has questioned the intention of the Congress over the restoration of the scheme, arguing that the grand old party cannot be trusted as it had not implemented the old pension scheme when it was in power at the Centre for 10 years.
“Besides this, the Congress was also in power in many states for so many years yet they did nothing to restore the scheme, and thus it can not be trusted,” Trivedi asserted.
The BJP-led Central government has made it clear that it will not implement the old pension scheme again in the country and the government has no intention of going back to the old scheme.
Politically, the BJP realises very well that if the pension issue is not dealt with properly, it may find it difficult to make a comeback in Madhya Pradesh and may also face difficulties in defeating the Congress in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh as well. Sources say that such feedback from the party organisation is also being shared with the government continuously.
The Central government is also understanding the election strategy of the Congress and perhaps, this is the reason why Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in the Lok Sabha during the budget session in March to constitute a committee headed by Finance Secretary T.V. Somanathan to review the two-decade-old National Pension System.
At that time, the Finance Minister had argued that such a demand is coming that there is a need to reform the National Pension System and that the committee should look into meeting the needs of the employees while keeping in mind the state of the exchequer, and the safety of the common citizens. She also said that measures will be designed in such a way that they can be adopted by both the Central as well as state governments.
It is quite clear that the BJP government is not in favour of bringing back the old pension scheme under any circumstances, but if sources are to be believed, the committee headed by the Finance Secretary can find a way through which old pension can be restored, so that people in favour of the old scheme can be satisfied.
To dull the edge of this election issue of Congress, the government is considering a plan to make the new pension scheme as profitable and attractive as possible.
The BJP-led Atal Bihari Vajpayee government abolished the old pension scheme on April 1, 2004. At that time, the NDA government abolished the old pension scheme and started the National Pension Scheme (NPS) in its place. After this, in the Lok Sabha elections held in 2004, the BJP had to be voted out of power.
The UPA coalition led by the Congress won the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister. Five years later, in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the UPA coalition again formed the government and Manmohan Singh was re-elected as the Prime Minister.