Alcohol ban, free education on Congress’s Chhattisgarh poll plank
The Congress is likely to promise total prohibition, free education to girls, food processing units in Maoist-affected areas, a farm loan waiver within 10 days of forming government, and an increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy by a record ~2500 per quintal, in addition to a bonus, in its manifesto for Chhattisgarh, party leaders familiar with matter said.
Chhattisgarh goes to the polls in two phases, on November 12 and 20, and the Congress is looking to come back to power after 15 years of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule. Congress leaders said the poll document — which contains promises, programmes and policies for the next five years if voted to power – have been finalised after seeking feedback from at least 3,000 people in the state.
In a first, the Opposition party is also assigning a particular amount for each welfare scheme to ensure the total sops do not cross the annual budgetary allocation of ~80,000 crore, which is approximately the budget for the state in the fiscal year 2018-19.
“We have prepared a unique and realistic manifesto this time. All the commitments are achievable. These are no jumlas (rhetoric) but doable promises,” said a Chhattisgarh Congress functionary who refused to be named.
The leader said the party will enforce a strict ban on alcohol on the pattern of Gujarat and Bihar if it came to power. Many women’s groups have given their representations on liquor ban to the members of the Congress’s manifesto committee.
The BJP and the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh of former chief minister Ajit Jogi are also pushing for total prohibition.
Anti-liquor protests have been witnessed across the state recently. However, parties are wary of calling for a total liquor ban in tribal areas. As per the provisions in the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, gram sabhas (village committees) or panchayats at the appropriate level are authorised to regulate and restrict sale and consumption of liquor in tribal areas.
The Congress is also going to promise food processing units in Maoist-hit areas to ensure socio-economic development. It is likely to offer free education to girls, unemployment allowance, reduced electricity bill, stop outsourcing jobs, promote industrial growth and upgrade infrastructure in government schools and hospitals, among other facilities.
Political observers say the Congress has tried to make a “people’s manifesto”. “...agrarian distress and unemployment are the two deciding factors in the upcoming elections and the Congress is trying to strike a chord with these two key sections,” said Raipur-based political analyst Diwakar Muktibodh.