Congress manifesto boasts about Nyay and guarantees but is it bereft of clear vision?

New Delhi, April 5 : The Congress on Friday released its manifesto for 2024 General Elections, promising ‘Paanch Nyay and twenty-five guarantees’ under five pillars of justice, which include ‘Yuva Nyay’, ‘Naari Nyay’, ‘Kisaan Nyay’, ‘Shramik Nyay’ and ‘Hissedari Nyay’.

However, within hours of the manifesto launch, the party found itself in the crosshairs of rival BJP and netizens for alleged use of pictures of New York city and Thailand in its poll document.

Political analysts are also not impressed with Congress’ manifesto as they found it lacking in giving aspiration and vision to a billion plus population, raring to go full throttle in chasing their dreams.

They find it ‘regressive than progressive’, when seen in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grand declaration to make India a developed nation by 2047 and make the country the third-largest economy in the world in the next few years.

Analysing the Congress manifesto, one gets to see some flaws and drawbacks as below:

(a) Breaking 50 per cent caste reservation cap

Congress manifesto promises to increase the reservation cap beyond 50 per cent for SCs, STs, and OBCs and also plans to bring reservations in educational institutions. It has promised to bring quotas in jobs for economically weaker sections and also plans to secure 50 per cent of jobs for women starting 2025.

Though encouraging more women in the workforce is a welcome step, other factors may led to serious and irreversible ramifications.

(b) Choice of personal laws

The party has promised freedom of choice in personal laws. However, this will lead to ambiguity in many laws including polygamy, sharia laws and more. With no clear-cut framework, Muslim population may demand to be governed by Sharia Law, polygamy may stay and triple talaq may be repealed, if the party is voted to power.

Moreover, this shows the party’s clear position on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), an issue which the BJP asserts will lay the foundation for a stronger and united India.

(c) Mahalakshmi and MSP

Congress’ promises of providing Rs 1 lakh to women of poor households annually, providing legal guarantee on MSP of crops and apprenticeships to unemployed youths will put a heavy burden on the exchequer.

The exorbitant expenditure on these poll promises may make them unviable and untenable as estimates say that the combined expenditure of two programmes, annually, would exceed Rs 15 lakh crore, thus making up for one-third of the Budget expenditure.

(d) Likely spike in food inflation

Congress’ stance on legal guarantees for the MSP has a potential for creating double-digit food inflation.

If the Congress government directs private firms to procure crops at declared MSP price, this will inflate the input costs for companies and will eventually show in inflation numbers.

(e) Sweatshops over strategic manufacturing

Congress manifesto claims that its government will give preference to those businesses that create a greater number of jobs.

By doing this, it will incentivise the creation of sweatshops (cheap labour-driven industries manufacturing high-volume low-value products) over strategic industries, like semiconductors and drone manufacturing.

This will not be in stark contrast to India’s preparation for its emergence as a major hub of semiconductor and drone manufacturing, but will also impair the country’s chances of opening new avenues of attaining global leader status.

(f) Moreover, the Congress’ stand on Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh has prompted rival parties to question its commitment and seriousness regarding them.

(g) The Congress has also promised to abolish Agnipath scheme if it comes to power.

Experts believe its stand on the issue is driven by political compulsions and not practical solutions.

By doing so, the party has tried to manufacture a view that recruitment in the military has stopped, which is not the case.

(h) Notably, the party manifesto remained silent on Old Pension Scheme (OPS), one of its key poll pitch in Assembly elections and also in operation in two-Congress ruled states, Himachal and Rajasthan.

Though the Congress sought to clarify its stand on OPS, many feel that it was dropped at the last hour to ward off allegations that the ‘regressive’ step robbed the exchequer in party-ruled states.

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