A difficult election should have occasioned a fresh and energetic manifesto. But the one released by the Congress on Wednesday held no surprises. It said all the ‘right’ things — inclusion, uplift of the weaker sections, scrapping several forms of tax, an 8% growth rate and so on. There is an element of commonality between the Congress and other parties with relation to responding to the people’s aspirations and the deepening of democracy. Much that the Congress has pledged could have found mention in the promises of other parties too. For example, the party’s anti-corruption stance has found mention in its manifesto, which is something it shares with AAP. On the question of preventing communal violence, the party has made its position clear on opting for the legislative route, something the Left parties should feel right at home with. At the end of its innings, or so it would seem, if opinion polls are anything to go by, the Congress has stuck to its moorings. It has more or less gone with what it said in 2009, expanding on points here and there.
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While in 2009 the party promised high growth, this time it has been more specific in the sense that it says 8% growth will return in three years if the party retained power. But one wishes there had been more clarity on what the growth-enhancing measures should be apart from saying there will be a regulatory task force, the investment rate will be stepped up, etc.
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One is at a loss to understand why it is virtually silent on foreign direct investment (FDI), except one reference and with no policy outline at that. The manifesto has taken note that stalled projects are holding up growth and promises to address inter-ministerial issues through a body headed by the PM. The party had prided itself on the ‘outstanding success’ of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in the 2009 manifesto and said it ‘would build on its success’. No such optimism has been shown this time.
Congress leaders take a nap during the release of the Congress manifesto at AICC HQ in New Delhi, for the upcoming Lok Sabha Polls. (HT Photo/Sanjeev Verma)
The Congress can take credit for the fact that it has delivered on many of the promises it made in 2009. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act is one of them and the food security law is another. But it had also left many unfinished tasks, such as police reforms, without which its assurances to women and the minorities mean very little. \
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However, the party has done well to retain its space in the centre-left political domain, in which it faces serious competition. But as far as manifestos go, this one is unlikely to set the Yamuna on fire.