In its manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Congress Party Tuesday pledged to focus on unemployment, rural development and farmers’ welfare, women empowerment and to strengthen the economy. The manifesto, “Congress will deliver”, was released by party president Rahul Gandhi at an event at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi in the presence of senior party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and others.
“The last five years have been disastrous for the people of India. Youth have lost jobs. Farmers have lost hope. Traders have lost business. Micro, small and medium enterprises have lost their confidence. Women have lost a sense of security. Deprived communities have lost their traditional rights. Institutions have lost independence,” Rahul said. “In this time of deep crisis, the Indian National Congress promises a clean break from the past five years.”
Rahul said the manifesto, themed on “wealth and welfare”, reflected the voice and aspirations of the people. “There is not a single lie in the manifesto; I’ve never broken a promise that I’ve made,” Rahul Gandhi said.
With the Lok Sabha elections hardly 10 days away, the Congress is fighting a renewed battle under Rahul, who was appointed president of the party in December 2017. It hopes to consolidate its position in the House, after BJP won a striking majority in 2014.
Rahul’s campaign so far has largely been centred on national issues like demonetisation, implementation of GST, India’s Rafale deal with France and “destruction” of institutions like the Election Commission, CBI and universities etc. At the event, he targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for being “scared”, and challenged him to a debate on issues like corruption and national security.
“In the last five years, the BJP government has spread hate and divisiveness. The Congress will work towards uniting India and bringing the people together,” he added.
Congress manifesto: Highlights
Rahul has promised to implement the minimum income support scheme, or NYAY, to “eliminate abject poverty” by 2030. The Congress party plans to roll out the scheme in three phases, under which five crore families who constitute the poorest 20 per cent, will be given a cash transfer of Rs. 72,000 a year.
The party has also said it would give the “highest priority” to protecting existing jobs and creating new jobs. By 2020, it has pledged to fill vacancies in all Central Government, Central Public Sector Enterprises, Judiciary and Parliament.
The Congress will replace the Goods and Services Tax (GST) with ‘GST 2.0’, a standard rate of tax. “GST 2.0 will be easy to administer, easy to understand by the taxpayer, and easy to comply with. We are confident that GST 2.0 will promote growth, new businesses and employment,” the manifesto reads.
The party has said it will scrap the NITI Aayog, “a noisy and incompetent intermeddler” and appoint a new Planning Commission with “renowned economists and financial experts as members”. Rahul has previously expressed his reservations with the institution.
The Congress party has also promised to amend the Aadhaar Act, 2016 and restrict the the use of Aadhaar to subsidies, benefits and services provided by the government.
For farmers, the Congress has said it will present a separate ‘Kisan Budget’ every year to help ensure remunerative prices, lower input costs, and assured access to institutional credit.
The Congress has also said it would scrap Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which defines the offence of ‘sedition’.