The National Development Council meeting to pass the XII Five Year Plan, scheduled for Thursday, is likely to raise the political temperature in the capital.
While the UPA government is bracing up to tackle the criticism likely to be hurled their way, signs of what is to come during the the day-long meeting, to be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, have already began to emerge.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar have already raised their voices against the Centre for not giving sufficient funds to their states. Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa is also expected to queer the pitch by raising the demand for greater autonomy in spending funds.
However, the sharper attack is likely to come from the third-time elected Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Interestingly, most of the non-Congress chief ministers are likely to attend his swearing-in ceremony in Ahmedabad on Wednesday before setting out for Delhi. Resurgent after his latest electoral exploit, Modi may use the opportunity to lash out at the Centre to further his chances of national acceptance, sources said.
Even without the barbs from other political parties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have a tough job articulating his government’s vision for the next five years, as the economic slowdown has brought down the projected growth rate from 9 per cent to 8.2 per cent in the twelfth five year plan. Singh is likely to lay emphasis on the rollout of the direct cash transfer scheme to be launched from January 1. The Congress is pitching the scheme as a game-changer with an eye on the 2014 general elections.
The UPA-II, which is fighting the negative perception fostered by a spate of scams, high inflation and economic slowdown, has set an ambitious budget of `47.7 lakh crore in the five years. This is more than double than the 11th Five Year Plan that had a budget of `20 lakh crore.
The government has 25 core targets it wants to achieve by the end 2017. In terms of social indicators, the plan has set a target of generating 5 crore new jobs in the non-farm sector, reducing the head-count ratio of consumption poverty by 10 percent, creating two million additional seats in the higher education sector, eliminating gender and social gap in school enrolment between girls and boys and between SCs, STs, Muslims and the rest of the population.
The economic targets set are achieving real GDP growth rate of 8.2 per cent, agriculture growth rate of 4 per cent and manufacturing growth rate of 10 per cent by the end of the twelfth five year plan. In the case of infrastructure, the plan document has set a target of achieving 9 percent GDP investment in the sector. The plan also intends to provide electricity to all villages, connecting villages with all-weather roads, upgrading all national and state highways to the minimum two-lane, completing the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors and increasing rural tele-density to 70 per cent.
Interestingly, the plan document has presented different scenarios in case the government continues to suffer from policy logjam. It predicts that the growth rate may drop to 5 percent if major reform decisions are not taken. However, if half-hearted decisions are taken, the growth may be around 6 per cent to 6.5 per cent, the plan document says.