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Gujarat elections: Congress manifesto to eye youth with jobs, smartphones and affordable housing

Congress to offer unemployment allowance, smartphones, cheap housing for women, lower power tariffs

assembly elections Updated: Nov 26, 2017 08:00 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Gujarat,Gujarat Elections,Congress
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi (C) waves as he arrives to address a rally in Dahegam, some 40km from Ahmedabad, on November 25, 2017. (AFP Photo)

In keeping with its longterm approach of focusing on entitlements, the Congress is likely to promise monthly stipends up to Rs 4,000 for jobless youth, smartphones for people below 35 years, reduction in house tax and affordable housing for women in its manifesto for next month’s assembly elections in Gujarat.

Congress leaders said the poll document -- that contains promises, programmes and policies of the party for the next five years if voted to power – is likely to be called the “people’s manifesto” and released next week.

Gujarat, where the Congress is out of power for 22 years, goes to polls on December 9 and 14. Results are expected on December 18.

Leaders said the manifesto is also likely to promise a panel that will look into the demand for quota in jobs and educational institutions by the influential Patidar community. A section of Patidars, led by young leader Hardik Patel, has pledged support to the Congress.

However, the main thrust of the party appeared to be the youth and women who form a sizeable number of voters and could make or break the Congress’ hopes of seizing power in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state. “A monthly unemployment allowance of Rs 4,000 will be given to a post-graduate, Rs 3,500 to a graduate and Rs 3,000 to Class XII passouts. It will cost an estimated Rs 7,000 crore to the state exchequer annually,” a party leader told HT.

Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki said there are around 30 lakh jobless youth in the state and the unemployment rate has gone up from 3.8% in 2011 to 5% in 2017.

Under a scheme called the ‘navsarjan yuva rozgar’, the Congress will promise smartphones and low interest loans to educated youth to set up their businesses, party leaders said.

Senior leaders Madhusudan Mistry and Deepak Babaria along with technocrat Sam Pitroda, a native of Gujarat, are involved in drafting the manifesto and the party has incorporated views and inputs gathered from different sections of the society in the document.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi – slated to take over as the party’s top leader shortly -- has been attacking the BJP-led NDA government over its “failure” to create two crore jobs a year, a promised made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his election rallies in 2014. The Congress says only 4.40 lakh jobs have been delivered from 2014 to 2016.

The previous Congress-led UPA government had introduced many rights-based entitlements through legislation, including the flagship rural employment guarantee scheme called MNREGA, right to education and food security. The NDA government has continued with these schemes.

In its manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had pledged to create 100 million jobs over five years.

The Gujarat manifesto is also likely to talk about a ‘ghar nu ghar’ scheme that envisages lowcost homes to poor and middle-income women, in both urban and rural areas. The party had made this promise in the 2012 elections as well.

According to the scheme, women will only have to pay for the construction cost of the houses and they will be charged low interest rates for loans of more than 15 years. The Congress decided to make the scheme a part of the manifesto once again as party leaders said the plan had struck a chord with women in 2012.

There will also be sops for farmers and the middle class. While the famers will be promised cheap electricity and adequate minimum support price on their crop, the party will announce reduction in state taxes on diesel and petrol, said another leader.

First Published: Nov 26, 2017 07:11 IST