India’s Congress party brings back trusted slogan to woo masses

NEW DELHI, Oct 15, 2006 (AFP) – It was the slogan that propelled India’s then premier Indira Gandhi to her first re-election victory in 1971 by a landslide. Thirty-five years on, the Congress Party government has brought back “Garibi Hatao” — “Eradicate Poverty”.

The government, elected in 2004 on an anti-poverty programme, is hoping the slogan will again work magic and keep the masses in its fold, say analysts.

“The problem is that of showing achievements (on the anti-poverty front),” says Rasheed Kidwai, biographer of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, daughter-in-law of Indira who was assassinated in 1984.

“The government’s report card does not have much to show. It’s also trying to woo its traditional core constituency with an eye on the next national polls due in 2009,” Kidwai says.

The government says it used the Indira Gandhi slogan for the restructuring of a package of anti-poverty programmes because it was an easier term to understand than Hindi officialese for poverty alleviation.

But coming as the slogan does midway through the coalition government’s five-year term, analysts view the move as strategic and all agree it bears the