Lok Sabha elections 2019: Samajwadi Party vows new tax bracket for ultra-rich
Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav on Friday released a so-called vision document for the 2019 parliamentary polls, which indicated that the SP’s alliance with one-time arch rival Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is seeking to turn the election into an upper caste versus Dalits and backward classes contest.
Caste is a prominent element of the 13-page document, “Mahaparivartan through Social Justice”, which is essentially the party manifesto. It promised to work for the creation of an Ahir armoured regiment in the Indian Army and a ban on the manual cleaning of toilets by Dalits. Mahaparivartan is Hindi for great transformation.
The national security section of the document says: “We propose to raise an Ahir Armoured Regiment and a Gujarat Infantry Regiment”. Ahirs and Yadavs are terms often used interchangeably and belong to the other backward classes (OBCs).
Unlike previous Samajwadi Party manifestos that had a dedicated section on “minorities/Muslims”, the document does not mention minorities or Muslims even once.When asked, Akhilesh Yadav said, “I am for Muslims. We are for Muslims.”
The document’s opening lines say the alliance between the SP, BSP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) “represents the most oppressed sections of society. We have always been, and are proud to continue to be the voice of more than half of our country... The privileged dismiss us as casteist...India is perhaps the most unequal country in the world. The rich have become super-rich — in fact, the richest 10% of the population (uniformly upper caste) owns more than 60% of India’s wealth.”
Releasing the document at a press conference, Akhilesh Yadav demanded that a detailed caste census be undertaken so that people get to know which caste makes up what proportion of the population.
The document says there is no reason why the rich should get richer, without giving back more. “We see no reason why someone making crores of rupees should pay the same tax rate as a salaried employee. We propose financing social schemes by imposing an additional 2% tax on total wealth of households owning more than ~2.5 crore (about 0.1% of Indian households). This works out to 1.1% of the GDP. We believe it is also time to add a top income tax bracket for the ultra-rich who hide their income using complex structures. Doing so would unlock an additional 1% of the GDP.” The vision documents says the government’s flagship Swachha Bharat programme had instituted “a systematic abuse of Dalits and lower-castes to clean the country”.
“ Symbolic gestures like washing their feet makes the problem worse, not better..,” it said, referring to PM Modi washing the feet of sanitation workers. “The Clean India for rich, upper caste people cannot be built by lower-caste Indians. We believe that the money spent on advertising ‘Clean India’ is better spent on tools and infrastructure that automate the cleaning of India.”
On being asked if Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati would be the prime ministerial candidate of the alliance, Akhilesh Yadav said Uttar Pradesh had given several prime ministers to the country and he would be happy if the “new” prime minister came from the state.