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Congress Manifesto Released, Promises Infrastructure Development, National Caste Census, Job Creation, BJP Calls it “Bunch of Lies”

Congress Manifesto Released, Promises Infrastructure Development, National Caste Census, Job Creation, BJP Calls it “Bunch of Lies”

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 5:  The Congress on Friday released its 2024 Lok Sabha elections manifesto with jobs creation, development of infrastructure, and a national caste census among the major highlights, as the BJP tore into its manifesto calling it a “bunch of lies.”

Releasing the party’s manifesto, the Congress party leader and former union finance minister P. Chidambaram who headed the Manifesto Committee, said the document focused on the theme of justice and so it was called ‘The Nyaya Patra.’

The manifesto was released in Delhi by party boss Mallikarjun Kharge, who was flanked by senior leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and Mr Chidambaram. “This manifesto will be ‘nyay ka dastavez‘ (a document for justice) in the political history of the country. From the five pillars of the ‘Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra’ – yuva (youth), kisan (farmers), naari (women), shramik (workers), and hissedari (equity), 25 guarantees will emerge…,” Mr Kharge said.

The overall theme of the manifesto was based on ‘work’, ‘wealth’, and ‘welfare’, the party said. “‘Work’ means you must provide jobs. ‘Wealth’ must be created before it is distributed. ‘Welfare’ means taking care of the poorer sections,” the Congress said.

One of the biggest talking points is the caste census – a political hot topic that has been in the headlines since the Bihar government’s state-wide survey was released in November. In its manifesto the Congress vowed to conduct a nationwide census to identify and enumerate castes, sub-castes and their socio-economic condition, and amend the Constitution to raise the 50 per cent cap on quota for marginalised groups – i.e., scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other backward classes.

The party has also promised to implement Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the farmers growing cash crops. The MSP issue has been at the heart of protests by farmers since 2020, when lakhs from across the country went on a months-long agitation against the centre’s (now-scrapped) three farm laws.

The Congress has said it would give a permanent legal guarantee for MSP – a core demand for protesting farmers – based on the formula recommended by the Swaminathan Commission. “Congress has been the only party that has lent its ear to the distress of the farmers and farm labourers, and we are determined to do everything possible to alleviate their pain and make agriculture a desirable livelihood,” the party said, attacking the BJP’s response to the farmers protest as “callous and brutal.”

The party also vowed to eliminate poverty by improving the fortunes of 23 crore people over the next decade. Mr Chidambaram attacked the BJP as a “government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich”, and said it was “driven by the interests of the top 1 per cent.” “… but we will look at the bottom 50 per cent. The bottom 50 per cent is as important. It has been estimated 23 crore people are still poor in this country. The UPA lifted 24 crore people out of poverty and we promise, if the Congress-led government comes to power in 2024, we will lift 23 crore in 10 years.”

As part of this promise – and to empower women – the Congress said it would launch a ‘Mahalakshmi’ scheme to provide an unconditional cash transfer of Rs 1 lakh per year to the oldest female member of every poor family.  Beneficiaries will be identified as those from the bottom level of the income pyramid.

The Congress said it “recognises that national security is not enhanced by chest-thumping or exaggerated claims, but by quiet attention to borders and resolute defence preparedness.” The party said it would work to restore status quo on the country’s borders with China and “ensure areas where both armies patrolled in the past are again accessible to our soldiers.”

This has been seen as a direct jab at the BJP over the military stand-off with China in parts of eastern Ladakh following violence in June 2020 that, the opposition has repeatedly claimed, led to New Delhi surrendering territory to Beijing. On diplomatic tension with Maldives, the Congress said it work to “repair relations.”

Universal free healthcare, including cost of diagnosis, surgery, and medication, would be made available, the party said. This would come with cashless insurance up to ₹ 25 lakh, like the model implemented in Rajasthan, when the Congress was in power. “We promise that healthcare will be universal and free in public health centres, such as hospitals, clinics, PHCs, MHCs, and dispensaries, as well as health camps. Free healthcare will include examination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery, medicines, rehabilitation, and palliative care.”

The Congress said it would also establish Assisted Living and Care Centres for disabled people and provide representation for them in local bodies.

In a move likely to resonate strongly among unemployed youth struggling with massive loan debts, the party said it would “as a one-time measure of relief” write off all student educational loans, including unpaid interest. This amount will be calculated as on March 15. Banks would be compensated by the government, the Congress said.

The Congress said it would amend laws to “combine the efficiency of EVM and transparency of ballot papers. “Voting will be through the EVM but the voter will be able to hold and deposit the machine-generated voting slip into the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) unit,” the party said.

It also promised to abolish the Agnipath programme and direct the armed forces to resume normal recruitment to achieve full sanctioned strength. It promised to restore full statehood of Jammu and Kashmir and grant statehood to Puducherry, guarantee of national minimum wage at ₹400 per day, promise to fill nearly 30 lakh vacancies in sanctioned posts at various levels in the central government, implement 10% quota in jobs, educational institutions for economically weaker sections (EWS) for all castes, communities without discrimination, a new ‘right to apprenticeship act’ to provide one-year apprenticeship to every diploma holder or graduate below age of 25, and launch of an urban employment programme guaranteeing work for urban poor in reconstruction, renewal of urban infrastructure.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kharge remarked that the Congress is releasing the manifesto on Babu Jagjeevan Ram’s birth anniversary. “We are dedicating our manifesto to the poor people of the country,” he said. “I urge everyone to have a close look at our manifesto and you will see a ‘shandaar tasveer’ (beautiful picture) of our country in it,” the Congress president said,

The BJP while attacking the Congress on its manifesto said the seriousness of it could be understood from the fact that photos of New York and Thailand were used in it. “Recently the social media chairperson said she was not aware who was handling her social media account. At least the party should know who was making their manifesto at least,” BJP’s Sudhanshu Trivedi said. Showing the photo used in the Environment section, Trivedi said that the photo was from the favourite destination of Rahul Gandhi — Thailand.

“Congress president Kharge ji said when Congress came to power, not even a needle used to be manufactured in India. This is an absolute lie. CV Raman got the Nobel Prize in 1930. Indian Institute of Science (Bengaluru) was founded in 1909. But they will continue to believe that everything happened after Nehru,” the BJP spokesperson said.

“They have called the manifesto “Nyaya Patra after doing injustice to all sections of the country for all these years,” the BJP leader said. “It’s not a big issue that wrong photos have been used. But it is concerning these photos are of foreign entities. Until now, they have been going abroad and defaming India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But now they are borrowing foreign photos for their manifesto,” the BJP leader said. The Congress did not fulfil either of the promises they mentioned in the manifesto either in the Centre or in the states during their rule, Trivedi said.

Reacting to the manifesto, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma asked whether a foreign agency was hired to draft the manifesto. “Cong manifesto promises to remove an elected State Govt, restore triple talaq, makes a U turn on OPS, has no delivery date on any of its promises, lacks a plan to harness benefits of Industry 4.0 and worst of all passes pictures from Thailand & America as that of India,” Himanta posted on X.



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