The Congress believes it lost the 2012 Punjab elections to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal’s populism. So this time round, the party manifesto for the February 4 elections promises the moon to voters, leaving no “section” untouched from cows to chowkidars (watchmen).
The manifesto was released on Monday by former prime minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi along with state party chief Captain Amarinder Singh and simultaneously in Chandigarh by manifesto committee convener Manpreet Badal, who said the bonanza will cost the state exchequer Rs 10,000 crore annually.
While the Congress gave fiscal prudence the go-by, it promised probity in the government. The party said it would loosen its purse strings for the needy but check government expenses.
The manifesto also promises to bring the chief minister under the ambit of the lokpal. The fight against corruption would include vetting of all government contracts/tenders above Rs 50 crore by an ethics committee.
It said the party will end the “politician-police nexus promoted by the system of halqa in-charges of SAD” and set up fast-track courts for drug cases and confiscation of property of drug dealers.
The 120-page document with pictures of Manmohan, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Amarinder and the Congress symbol ‘hand’, has left no section untouched. Cows may not be voters but they can make a vote bank. The Congress manifesto tries to steal the BJP’s thunder and vote bank by promising to open one ‘gaushala (cow shelter)’ in every block and provide help in running them to NGOs at the rate of `30 per cow, per day. For chowkidars, it has declared an increase in remuneration to Rs 2,000 a month.
SUBSIDISED TAXIS, TRACTORS
After rolling out schemes to register youth for 50 lakh smart phones with one year free data and one job, per family, the manifesto promises to give 1 lakh taxis and commercial vehicles to youth every year at subsidised rates under the ‘Apni Gaadi, Apna Rozgar’ scheme. After registering farmers for debt waiver under ‘Karza-Khurki Khatam’ scheme, the party manifesto also offers them 25,000 tractors and other agricultural implements at subsidised rates. The state government will stand guarantee for the loans, which they will have to repay in 5 years.
The poll doles don’t end here. The party promises to bear expenses of 200 meritorious poor and Scheduled Caste students every year at universities abroad under a scheme named after late chief minister Partap Singh Kairon who, Manpreet said, had studied at Michigan university and was the architect of modern Punjab. For the “less meritorious” students from all sections, it has promised free textbooks.
Taking inspiration from late Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s ‘Amma’ canteens, the Congress promises a “decent meal” for Rs 5 in state canteens. From the Aam Aadmi Party, it has borrowed the idea of setting up mohalla clinics and from West Bengal, the “Community Medical Srevice” comprising trained health volunteers. To outwit neighbouring Haryana, it has announced a jump of Rs 2 crore in prize money for Olympic gold and silver medalists from the state.
The manifesto promises 33% quota to women in government jobs and educational institutions and increase in quota for other backward classes (OBCs) from 12 to 15 percent in jobs and 5 to 10 percent in educational institutes. It has come up with another 3% reservation in government jobs and 5% in educational institutions for those living within 30 km of the international border.
For SCs, there are free homes or 5 marla plots, 30% quota in government residential and commercial plots and free education up to graduation, including free board and lodging in professional colleges. To woo industry, the party promises to freeze power tariffs at Rs 5 per unit for five years and a “no jail clause” under a new industrial policy. The document, which starts with the party’s vision for Punjab, also includes a 10-page chargesheet on the ruling SADBJP government titled, ‘Its a SAD Bad Show here’.