Millennium Post

Grand old peddlers of same tired tropes

What has the ruling Congress party tried to achieve by rehashing old promises in a practically unchanged format in the 2014 election manifesto? Nothing. Not only is the manifesto a drab rerun of the more electrifying 2009 version, it is also a much weakened attempt at wooing the voters, who the party has more or less given up on. Inasmuch as Congress top brass wanted a face-saving exercise, the carrot and stick manifesto, with its 19-point charter emphasising socio-economic and political expansion and inclusion, works to exactly that end. To the extent that the INC manifesto bats to achieve fiscal consolidation and getting the economy back on track, it in fact, scores a self-goal by putting money of more expenditure-heavy promises such as housing and health. In a Modi-fied political economy, such legislations, though good intentioned, would only end up sealing Congress death trap, and further reiterating its badge of ‘dole-orientedness’, even though the Sonia Gandhi-led party works to aid the poorest of the poor. In fact, Congress is deeply aware that the middle classes, now equally wooed by the Narendra Modi-led BJP and Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, have left the grand old party and all the delusions that it had helped nurture for so long. After two terms, all of UPA’s pledges look jaded, with neither the watershed legislations nor the world economy-driven economic buoyancy engineering any miracle to save the reigning dispensation. Hence, Congress’ claptrap about spending money without chalking out plans to generate enough income looks like a last ditch attempt to somehow tide over time before the inevitable defeat of general elections sends them to political irrelevance for at least five years from now.

     The manifesto, while promising more jobs, better labour policy, housing and health, is mute on bigger education reforms. In addition, while encouraging more FDI and saying that it will curb black money, the manifesto details nothing substantial on how to achieve that goal. Given that the UPA-II has been a repository of some of the biggest corruption scandals that have rocked the political economy and shocked the collective conscience of the nation, sending national disenchantment with the ruling dispensation shooting through the roof, the words on black money and the illicit circuits of ill-gotten wealth ring emphatically hollow. Though the bits of direct taxation as well as goods and services tax sound well-intentioned, it is likely to further alienate the smaller corporate, even as Big Business will find loopholes to dodge that bullet. Congress’ announcement to upgrade power, transport and development infrastructure has nothing in it to outshine Narendra Modi-led BJP’s envisioned projects, and in a way appear to be paler shadows of Modi’s developmental models. Insofar as the bytes on women’s empowerment, law and security, fast-tracking justice, food security, aanganwadi meals and passage of bills to prevent atrocities against minorities (SCs, STs, OBCs, religious factions), none of them are radical enough to attract the exponentially more aware citizen-voter. Evidently, Congress has consigned itself to watch the political theatre unfold from the sidelines for a while now.
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