From the people, for the people
"It is a manifesto that has come to us from the people" stated Rahul Gandhi at the launch of Congress's election manifesto which reflects the ground realities present under the Modi regime. Six months of crowdsourcing contributed to this manifesto which aims at providing better and able governance. Spread across sectors, it mainly picks up on the lacunae existing in the public domain which was either never dealt with or poorly handled during the 16th Lok Sabha. The introduction of a separate Kisan Budget to tend to the farm issues exclusively is a clear message to the nation on how Congress aims to remedy the callously handled agriculture sector by NDA. Redesigning BJP's Fasal Bima Yojna (crop insurance scheme) apart from restoring the original Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and Forest Rights Act builds a strong set of promises towards our farmers for whom a double income by 2019 remains a pipedream fed by BJP. Agrarian distress is perhaps one of the few major BJP failures that Congress's manifesto builds upon. Unemployment rates soared high in the Modi regime because of which the Congress manifesto promises to fill all vacancies (4 lakh as on April 1, 2019) in the Central government before March next year apart from requesting the state governments to do the same (20 lakh vacancies) in their jurisdiction. Not just this but the formation of several new councils or administrative bodies would also require personnel; citing government employment which is, in fact, a dream for a large populace in this country. Congress's NYAY will tend to the poorest 20 per cent families, providing them with a cash transfer of Rs 72,000 annually in the account of the women of each family. Clearing the air of doubts over NYAY's monetary requirement, Congress declared the expenditure for the first two years to be less than 2 per cent of GDP, citing the minimum basic income scheme to be completely feasible within the fiscal ambit of the country's budget. A lot many promises reflected the poor state of affairs that have befallen on society due to shortcomings on NDA's part such as electoral reforms. BJP's electoral bond scheme, whose validity is now subject to SC's verdict and which is designed to favour the ruling party through uncapped donations from corporates, would be scrapped by Congress as it promises to set up a National Election Fund. Also the promise to match 50 per cent of EVMs with VVPATs – currently under judicial scrutiny. Congress promised to investigate BJP deals in the last five years, especially the contentious Rafale deal that has stormed the public discussion with its dubious nature for the past several months. Reviewing and replacing GST with GST 2.0 regime based on a single, moderate, standard rate of tax along with enacting the Direct Taxes code in the first year of the government is aimed at streamlining the still-confusing and hastily implemented GST by the NDA government.
Scrapping NITI Aayog has been the cornerstone of a lot of manifestos and Congress promised it as well with the formation of the Planning Commission with re-defined responsibilities. Promise to decriminalise sedition and defamation – the two draconian laws – which have been subject to abject criticism, especially with the former being used as a political tool in the JNU episode. MGNREGA 3.0 with 150 days of employment, road network to stitch all villages and habitations under PM Gram Sadak Yojna, Right to Homestead Act for households who do not own a house/land were some of the rural development promises put forward by Congress. Learning from its past, Congress promised adequate defence spending to match the requirement of armed forces since the Modi government has already convinced the country of its heightened interest in national security. In fact, the promise to double the efforts for a permanent seat at UNSC and Nuclear Suppliers Group is Congress improvising on the inflated criticism received over its past failure to do so. While focussing on the failures of NDA government, and its own failures from the past terms, Congress's crowdsourcing has indeed aided in drafting a more issue-centric manifesto as per people's opinion. Though manifestos are ambitious by nature, the relevance of issues and the scale of promises is what appeals more to the people than the number of promises. Lesser promises but focus on their delivery would win more votes, and hopefully, Congress' time in the opposition camp must have imbibed this realisation all the more. If not, this manifesto, or any, would be similar to populist budget by NDA government or fancy words spewed at rallies by leaders to woo the audience. It is important to remember that actions speak louder than words and Modi administration knows it all too well with the recent defeat in assembly elections owing to agrarian distress and unemployment. If Congress believes that it has inculcated India's "Mann ki baat" then it should not worry about losing anymore since India will vote as per its "mann" only!