This is the second part of a series analysing Congress’ election manifesto. Find a link to the first part here: Flavours of Elections– The Congress Manifesto
After the release of the Congress manifesto for the Indian General Elections 2019, there has been much debate and discourse about it throughout the country. While it has been termed “reformist” by some, it has been labeled as vaguely populist by others. Apart from receiving accolades for the impressionable manifesto, the Congress should also discuss at length how it plans to implement the reforms mentioned in the manifesto as a part of their campaign. If they are voted back to power, they promised to enforce the policy of “wealth and welfare”. In order to strike a balance between appeasing the rich and the poor sections of the society, the party promised to generate wealth by encouraging private enterprises, and to escalate welfare policies for the vulnerable section of the population at an exponential rate. Apart from the minimum income guaranteed scheme and The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the party also promised extensive expansion of the health care sector and education sector.
These deliverables have attracted a major section of the public. Also, the multiple welfare schemes introduced are aimed at appeasing the lost supporters. Party leaders have also mentioned at length the need to address the needs of the marginalized sections of the population.
Although election manifestos are viewed as an essential instrument for political discussions, leaders often tend to overpromise before elections. Congress has to answer certain practical questions before it gets into the league of overpromising. For instance, the welfare schemes that have been announced appear vague, as the source for the funding of such schemes have not found mention in the manifesto. While Congress enjoys the positive image of living up to the expectations that the manifesto sets (for instance in 2004), it has prepare itself to answer challenging questions on its manifesto. Certain fresh ideas have sparked nation-wide debates on fiscal discipline, on revenue extraction, on India’s path of development and the boundaries of development.
However, the party leaders are confident of their manifesto serving the great purpose. The Congress party confidently stated that the election manifesto released by them would definitely benefit the commoners, and that it will serve as a tool for them to win all seven seats in the Lok Sabha. The political leaders have concentrated on several other sides of the spectrum such as initiation of dialogue and conversation with the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This however, appears to be an attempt to win their support. Leaders have also gone ahead and taken initiatives to begin working with international organizations to prevent Pakistan from expanding acts of terrorism. They also added that they intend to nullify the sedition law and create new laws in order to prevent hate crimes.
A monochromatic view of the manifesto and the intentions of the leaders paint a very holistic portrait of Congress and its reality. However, the promises might be far from true. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal greatly criticized the Congress leaders and pointed out several relevant flaws in their entire election manifesto including it being vague, calling it an “assault on poverty.” The manifesto begins with comparisons and choices in various paradigms between the BJP and itself.
Even though some call the manifesto ‘vague’ and ‘unachievable’, others agree on the fact that there is more than one way of looking at it. The manifesto can be considered a fresh pool of thoughts, which indicates that the party has overcome its obsession with the past. The latter half of the manifesto pointed out the need for transparency and accountability, something that the past government has clearly failed to do, despite its act of preaching “minimum government, maximum governance.” The Congress’s promise of letting the Reserve Bank of India function autonomously and let the media exist independently feels like a fresh idea to the arrogance of BJP’s sense of over-achievement and the need to control its citizens even at the cost of freedom of expression.
This article is a part of the ‘Of Tugs and Tussles: General Election 2019’ feature series where we focus on quality content written and chosen to focus on specific areas surrounding elections. Find a link to other articles of this feature series here: