lection manifestos seem to have lost their relevance over the years for the simple reason that most promises made in them by virtually all parties and their leaders often do not get mentioned at all during the following five year term and remain on paper only. Unless an interested person collects copies of these manifestos, it becomes difficult to lay hands on them a few months after election results are announced. It’s easy to hold forth promises but difficult to turn ideas into action. This situation is amplified in India where every side is waiting in the wings to put a spoke into everyone else’s wheel. To add to this, there is the bureaucracy that takes matter forward with snail’s speed and a judiciary that looks at things from completely different corners. Yet, people want to know about the promises that are made. This is reason why manifestos still have some relevance. The manifesto released by the Congress party on Tuesday requires close scrutiny as to what is in store for the nation if the party returns to power.
Notably, the thrust is on two fronts and they are on farmers and the youth. These, by common consensus, are among the most neglected segments of the society in a new India which should otherwise have been charged up by the energy and power of the young women and men, both in rural and urban India. Over 10 crore of them are fresh entrants to the voters list and could ultimately tilt the balance either way. So also with farmers, who only get noticed every time a farmer commits suicide. Not all farmer suicides must be due to debt burden, but their plight remains mostly unaddressed. The recent months after the BJP received setbacks in the five-state assembly polls saw every political party shifting their focus on the farmers. However, all the focus has been limited to is in handing out pittance under the guise of helping farmers. The intention is clear and that is to win elections by befooling the farming community. Most of these doles will dry up once elections are over. The primary reason for that eventuality will be shortage of money with the governments, both at the Centre and States.
The Congress manifesto promises to fully address the problems of farmers by introducing, for the first time, a Kisan Budget, as distinct from the general Union Budget. The integration of the Railway budget with Union Budget by the Modi government has not produced any better results for the railways or the nation.
The manifesto’s offer of filling over 20 lakh vacancies existing in the government sector is also a telling commentary on the way the Modi government and other governments functioned in the last half decade. Filling up vacant posts is a matter of great importance for the twin reasons that the government machinery could roll on with greater speed and efficiency, and at the same time hundreds of thousands of more families would earn a regular income. That the Modi government worsened the scenario to this level is a pity. It might have to pay a heavy price in this round of elections for its failure to generate jobs and in the process left the youths high and dry. The manifesto promises creation of 10 lakh jobs in the panchayats – specifically addressing the rural youths. It also promises 150 working days a year per beneficiary under the national rural employment guarantee scheme (MNREGA), from the present 100 days. This scheme has helped reduce poverty in the countryside in impressive ways, and must get more of importance as time passes. The present government at the Centre, however, has consistently been under-budgeting this scheme.
As Congress President Rahul Gandhi stated, these offers are over and above the NYAY offer he announced recently, under which a minimum income guarantee scheme for BPL families has been proposed. According to the Congress claim, all the promises are implementable, because due thought has gone into them by way of involvement of specialists. This included former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, among others. Yet, one takes these promises with a pinch of salt.
Every party is liberal about giving out promises. In fact, on the eve of the approaching polls, it is raining promises, and if all of these are implemented, India is sure to realise its dream of a superpower sooner than later. People have not forgotten all those rosy dreams that Narendra Modi showed the nation during his 2014 election campaign. All of those dreams have turned sour. Hopefully the promises made during these 2019 elections by the various parties will be honored by those parties, should they, singly or jointly, form the next government.