The Congress Party yesterday in New Delhi released its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections with the promise of ‘Hum nibhayenge’ (we shall deliver) in the presence of party president Rahul Gandhi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Congress on Tuesday promised to eradicate poverty in India by 2030 and tackle the challenges posed by growing unemployment, farm distress and women empowerment. He appealed voters to choose harmony over hatred as it released the manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Most of the promises which appear in the Congress manifesto has been already announced by party president Rahul Gandhi. The vision document of Congress encompasses a wide range of issues ranging from promising to implement Nyay, its ambitious minimum income guarantee programme or to proposing a separate budget for farmers. Let us take a look at 5 major promises in its manifesto that the Congress Party has proposed to implement, if voted to power in May 2019.
Right at the top of the scale – and on the 15-point list in the manifesto – is, of course, Nyuntam Aay Yojana (Nyay), or the minimum income scheme. A few days back Congress president Rahul Gandhi first announced the details of Nyuntam Aay Yojana (Nyay) scheme under which Rs 72,000 a year will be directly transferred to the poorest 20% households. The path breaking scheme Nyay has been pegged as a tool to eradicate income inequality in the country where in last 5 years 73% of country’s wealth is now owned by 1% super rich people.
The stated goal of Nyay is its promise of, ‘No Indian Family Shall Be Left Behind”. With this innovative program, Congress plans to target 5 crore families with approx 20 crore people. Now this will benefit the poorest 20 % of all families in the country and each family would be guaranteed a cash transfer of Rs. 72,000 a year in their bank accounts. The concept of providing minimum income support to poor families is not new, and if implemented, will be the biggest income guarantee scheme in the country.
The budget for the entire scheme is expected to cost around Rs 3.6 lakh crore per annum. Congress President said he made this announcement only after consulting the top economists of the country who all agreed that the scheme is fiscally prudent and very very doable.
The second major promise in the manifesto is to create 22 lakh jobs. With unemployment hovering at a 45-year high of 6.1%, the Congress President promised to fill four lakh vacancies in the central government by March 2020 and also request state governments to recruit another 20 lakh people against existing vacancies, especially in healthcare and education sectors.
Rahul also promised to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill in the very first session of the 17th Lok Sabha giving 33% of seats for women in Parliament and state legislatures and also in educational institutions and government jobs. This important bill is pending in the Parliament for last 9 years. While speaking to girl students in Chennai last month he said women should not be considered second to men in anything. He further added that he doesn’t see many women in the leadership positions either in the Parliament or state assemblies and he will see to it that this anomaly is duly taken care of.
On education, it promised to double the allocation in the budget to 6% of the GDP in five years. According to the Economic Survey of India 2017-18, the total expenditure in the education sector by both centre and state was a meagre 2.7% of the GDP. Under Dr Manmohan Singh government from 2010-11 to 2013-14, the expenditure on education reached an all time high of 3.1% but since then it has always been lower than 3%. The manifesto also mentions that school education from Class I to Class XII in public schools shall be compulsory and free.
Another major promise was made in the respect of reviewing and amending a host of laws, rules and regulations and among them is contentious British-era law that defines sedition. It promised to scrap Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code that defines the offence of sedition, contending that it had been misused and become redundant because of subsequent laws.
In the recent times, this law was used against JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and student activist like Umar Khalid who were arrested and jailed on charges of sedition that triggered nationwide protests. Hardik Patel, the Patidar leader from Gujarat who led a protest in 2015 was also a victim of this law. This section was also used against five human-rights activists who were put behind the bars under the pretext of being urban naxals over allegations of inciting violence at Bhima Koregaon rally by Dalits.
Rahul dismissed criticism by the BJP that the minimum income guarantee scheme was “not doable” and would add to fiscal strain. He said that BJP also said loan waiver was not doable, but we did it within two days of coming to power in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. “It may not be doable for the BJP, but it is possible for the Congress,” Rahul said.
Speaking with the media, Rahul said the Congress manifesto was a product of extensive public consultation and lot of brainstorming with sectoral experts which reflected the wishes of the people. Last year in October, Congress party had launched a website for inviting suggestions and ideas from common people for its manifesto. The senior leader and the ex Finance Minister PC Chidambaram while launching the website had said its theme was “Jan Awaz-Your Voice” and the party will adopt an inclusive approach while incorporating the public responses in its manifesto.
Rahul spoke that he had given clear instructions that the manifesto has to be truthful and he didn’t want a single promise which may not be fulfilled because people have been hearing large number of lies uttered everyday by our Prime Minister. He came out with a catchy new slogan for the election campaign – “Garibi par Vaar, Bahattar Hazaar”. Whether this slogan proves to be a game changer or not, we will get the answer only on 23rd May.