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HomeOpinionCongress’ election manifesto is the right document at the wrong time: Yogendra...

Congress’ election manifesto is the right document at the wrong time: Yogendra Yadav

The priorities listed by Rahul Gandhi are arguably the issues India should focus on: poverty, farm distress, unemployment, health and the sense of fear.

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The launch of the Congress’s manifesto Tuesday marked a missed opportunity in this historic Lok Sabha election. Not because this manifesto is a bad document. As far as manifestos of mainstream parties go, this one is more cogent and thought-through than the run-of-the-mill documents. Congress president Rahul Gandhi too made the most of his modest oratorical skills.

The trouble is that the Congress’ manifesto is the right document at the wrong time. Politics is all about timing and context. The Congress is playing normal election games when this election is not an election at all. This is a capture of power through a ritual that has all the external appearances of being a fair democratic election. A decent, nuanced policy document is a virtue in normal times, but not when you face a determined, well-coordinated assault on constitutional democracy. Institutions and values that are at the heart of our Constitution face an unprecedented attack.

In this context, what the Congress does or doesn’t becomes critical. In this election, the big opposition parties carry the responsibility of defending democracy. But so far, we have seen little of the determination and the vision needed at this moment. Everyone in the opposition is busy with their calculus of interest, just when they needed to look at the big picture. As the principal national opposition, the Congress carries the greater burden of expectations.

Also read: 3 things Congress must explain before India’s poor believe in its minimum income support

To be fair, the Congress did focus on the real issues in a bid to bring this election back to the basics. The five priorities listed by Rahul Gandhi are arguably the five big issues that the country should focus on: poverty, farm distress, unemployment, health and the widespread sense of fear.

The proposals put forward by the Congress are mostly serious. There are many design and resource issues with ‘NYAY’, but the idea of direct cash transfer to the poorest is not something to scoff at. Serious economists have discussed similar proposals. This one could be a good starting point for initiating measures to address extreme forms of poverty. My colleagues in the farmers’ movement may not be fully satisfied with the Congress manifesto promises on agriculture. But, their key demands – one-time loan waiver and an institutional mechanism for remunerative prices – do find a place here, although not in a form that we may have wanted. The proposal for a ‘kisan budget’ may not mean anything immediately, but it has the potential to raise awareness on farmers’ issues in national public life.

It is true that any government would find it very hard to fill the 20 lakh-plus vacancies in the central and state governments, but this promise is way ahead of Narendra Modi’s election slogan of two crore jobs a year.

The idea of ‘Seva Mitras’ for each panchayat is not just additional employment, but also has the potential to improve the quality of local governance. The promise of ‘right to healthcare’ does not yet have a road map to back it up, but the move away from private insurance-based model is a step in the right direction.

Besides there are many relevant and sensible proposals in the Congress manifesto that did not make the headlines: right to homestead land for every family, livelihood centre for unorganised labourer, an additional ASHA worker for large villages, generation of employment through restoration of water bodies, extension of Right To Education up to Class XII, use of the Diversity Index for social justice and appointment of Equal Opportunity Commission [Full disclosure: The author was associated, way back in 2007, with a report that recommended the EOC].

Also read: Kisan budget, media freedom, Right to Healthcare — Congress manifesto reaches out to all

The manifesto also promises many steps that are essential to protect our constitutional democracy: scrapping of sedition law, doing away with criminal defamation, reviewing some types of immunities under AFSPA and withdrawing the infamous electoral bond scheme. It also recognises many steps that have been recommended by civil society groups for quite some time: a National Judicial Commission to appoint judges, a similar body to redress complaints against judges, enactment of the Grievance Redressal Bill and the institution of a powerful Environment Protection Authority.

Far from the canard spread by Arun Jaitley, the document merely reiterates broad national consensus on issues of national security. The proposal about review of some aspects of AFSPA is actually milder than the BJP’s promise during the J&K polls to not use AFSPA in the state.

Clearly, the Congress wanted to play it safe. So much so that the manifesto does not even acknowledge the least that should be said about the plight of Muslims under the Modi regime.

If all this policy thinking does not bring the poll agenda back to the basics, we have to look for reasons beyond this manifesto. There is the issue of timing: the Congress came out with major pro-people promises just 10 days before the first round of polling when there is a remote chance of these promises ever reaching the intended audience. I doubt if many farmers will get to know that the Congress has promised a nationwide loan waiver.

Then there is the issue of reach: Congress is focused on tuning when it needs amplification in the face of the biggest propaganda machine of our times. With the TV studios becoming BJP’s party offices and the EC being widely seen as an extension of the PMO, it is not clear if any of the Congress promises would reach the people.

And then, there is the issue of credibility: neither the Congress nor Rahul Gandhi is a convincing carrier of the call to save the republic. Rahul Gandhi makes it a point to remember and remind everyone of the Congress’s legacy just when that legacy is one of its biggest liabilities.

Also read: Unemployment is a silent political killer and can catch the BJP off guard in polls

The problem is not that the manifesto is a bad document, the problem is that it is just a document, not the loud and credible political message of hope so badly needed in our country today.

The author is the National President of Swaraj India.

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  1. I guess Rahul Gandhi learnt the art of cheating from Modi/BJP. In 2014, BJP made much hyper promises like putting money into people’s bank accounts, etc. In the same way congress now making promises of putting money in accounts. Perhaps Rahul copycatting Modi.

  2. Congress distroy the nation for last 70 years and keep people under poverty and illiterate purposely and now trying very hard to get power at any cost making the people fool with anti national tukde tukde manifesto.

  3. Do not compare China with India. China is 3.5 times India for the same population. China is relatively monolithic unlike highly diverse India. India and China were not in the same position in 1947 at all. China vigorously took part in World War Two and emerged as a super power even than. That’s why China have been in the security council. And the most important of all, China is an atheist nation with a scientific, competitive attitude and is free of regressive feudal termites like RSS and Sangh Parivaar, or Sharia & Madarsa.

    And stop considering yourself modern and progressive by labelling anyone you (Those Who Have Commented Here or more simply the.Bhakts ) don’t agree with as leftist, pseudo liberal or pseudo secular. You’re nothing but trendy bandwagons. Ironically, China, which you are so fanatically idolising is a communist country exactly opposite of your Bhagwan Modi’s crony-capitalism model of governance.

    How could you ( bhakts) even talk of clean government? Haven’t you heard about Rafael deal, Nirav Modi (NiMo), Vyapam, Bjp MP Vijay Malya and MJ Akbar, Choksi, Anil Ambani, etc.

    The SC judges holding open press conference; the CBI scandal; tacit resignations of RBI governor and NitiAayog vice-chairman; attack on reporters and even eminent journalists and activists like PP Bajpai, Gauri Lankesh, Sir Yogendra Yadav himself; the lapdog media; unanswered RTI queries (remember Feku’s promises of transparencies); suppression of NSSO data on various socio-economic factors such as Unemployment, Farmers Sucides, etc.
    The 2004 – 09 UPA 1 was much cleaner then this NDA government and one can only imagine what if if NDA 2.

    You all seem to quite omniscient and cosmopolitan. Tell us what kind of government (presently or historically) suppresses or buys media? Why are the infotainment sensational media houses or even the press have become lapdogs of the BJP?

    Agar Modi thoda bhi kaam kiya hota na to ye godiMedia na dhol pit-pit k pagal bana diya hota hume, sone nahi deta. Woh adarsh gaon, saf nirmal Ganga, swach gali muhalle, khushal gaon or kisan, santust youth,smart cities, 15 lakhs, Swizz Black money within 100 days (are chodo kmsekm Naam to bata do, dikhava krne k liye 130 crore ko line m khada kr sakte ho or 14-15 log k naam bhi nahi bata sakte), acche din kyun nahi dikha rahe hai ye godimedia. Are 5 saal m London nahi ban jayega Bharat janate hain, lekin kuch to perceptible improvement dikhe sivaye ye Jio k. Ha lynchings or communalism jarror dikh raha hai. Congress k time m media sarkaar ki khabar leta tha (AnnaAndolan coverage, Ramdev-Drama coverage), aaj Apni Khabar sarkaar ko deta hai. Government k har failures k liye 44 seat waale opposition ko blame krte ho or agar kuch samajh nahi aata to Nehru or 60 saal krne lagte ho. Future se jyada history ki baate krte ho.
    BikauMedia ko goad m lena hi pehchan hai Feku k failures ka.
    Itna empowerment or development kiya hai to Hindutva, Army, Pseudo Nationalism, or Humare Tirange k piche kyun chup raha hai. Deshvashio ko hi deshdrohi bol raha hai. Ab vikaash k dunka kyun nahi baja raha.

    Adaani k charted plane m 2014 m ghuma tha or 2019 m bhi ghum raha hai to bharega or karega kiski.

    Insaan ka pata chalata hai uske behaviour se na ki jitte waqt balki haarte waqt.

    Democracy runs through checks and balances and Institutions. Your universal blaming of individuals shows how weak our institutions and democracy are. And the failure of our education system to impart scientific and critical outlook. Almost all of us are still living with Raja-Praja or Masiah Mai Baap mentality.

    Bhakts, I recommend you go read NCERT textbooks until it remains available or it is too late.

  4. Vikram Arora Faridabad,
    It is said that most of the people learn from the experience of others . And there are people who do not learn even from their own experience. YY seems to belong to belong to second category . What is track record of congress in development of the country and removal of poverty ? Japan was in ruins in 1947 .It was in ruins by nuclear bombs and lost every single factory. in 20 years it was dictating the economic ties to USA. Korea, Indonesia, Israel , Indonesia, Taiwan, war devastated western Europe , even USSR out-performed India. Here Nehruvian Congress was developing licence ,quota and permit Raj . It stifled the growth and development. It developed and promoted the endless corruption . With money earned through corruption Nehru laid the foundation of corrupt dynasty in 1957 itself when Indra Gandhi was made the President of Indian national Congress. (like Lalu Prasad promoting Rabri or Tejsvi yadav today.)
    Every Country achieved the perceptible change in life style of its citizens and made a big dent on mass poverty. But alas in India even after seven decades poverty removal remains the main economic back-log. And it must be clear to you that mostly India has been ruled Congress or Congress supported Governments during last seven decades. Even during Modi years Rajya Sabha where BJP was out-numbered was used to bring hindrances by blocking many Legislations . Sorry , Congress manifesto may be drafted by making some good promises . but its track record on implementation does not inspire confidence to the common voters of India.

    • Vikram Arora has hit the right cord. Congress has a very poor record of implementation and is fully responsible for the relative and absolute backwardness of India in every sphere of life, compared to countries similarly placed like us in 1947. Vikram does not mention China but even China was in similar position as India in 1947 and look where are these countries now. Bogey of damage to institutions all bogus and makes no sense. Modi has run a clean government for 5 years and has taken many bold policy decisions in the national interest. This is a credible record and much better than any previous government. YY is ideologically opposed to Modi and BJP. Being a left liberal pseudo secular, he can not write anything different.

  5. It is no doubt too late . But better late than never.
    It does come as a ray of hope in this hyper nationalism bogey that is being dished out.
    The essence of the matter is that a minimum direct cash transfer to the bottom most poor is a Must do. The next issue is how to fund this.
    When we can manage to fund the very high salaries of Govt. servants and Dearness Allowances and meet the recemendations of Pay Commissions, why should it not be possible to meet Nyay.

  6. Are these two persons Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi the only alternatives in the largest democracy in the world?

  7. On both social media presence and Event Management, the Congress is proving to be a quick, diligent learner … 2. Overall, the Manifesto is a worthy document, notwithstanding issues people may have with specific provisions.

  8. Yogendra Yadav is anti Modi and will only represent those views which are contrary to the thinking of the current dispensation. What is new in the Manifesto of Congress. What have they done in the last several decades to reduce poverty.

    • What have BJP/RSS done? They have aggravated the situation 200-fold, not just in terms of increased poverty and highest unemployment, but the destruction of agricultural sector, the small industry, the informal sector, destruction of Institutions, the subversion of Rule Of Law and the Justice systems at the highest levels, too. What more do they want to accomplish?

      • Are you saying that 2014-19 was Indira Gandhi 2.0 version – BJP as the mirror image of the emergency era? The institutions were destroyed even during Sonia’s reign just that media didn’t report it.

      • pushpa: Road construction has doubled. E governance is implemented. Mudhra loans has created entreprenuers. Incubators have been opened in major universities. People like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mally were unable to face the heat and fled. Bankruptcy Code is helping resolve disputes. Cold storage is being created. Villages are being connected by fibre optics. Defence purchases are starting to happen. Hundreds of Mobile Phone manufacturing companies have been opened instead of importing full set from china from 2004 to 2014. Soil Health cards for farmers, Neem coated Urea, Jan Dhan accounts, Adhaar linking, GST, DBT to name a few.

  9. So Mr learned YY, would you recommend that the family (maa-beta-beti) should take retirement and Congress should be reinvented with democratic leadership? Isn’t democracy within a national level party necessary to bring about true democracy in our great country?

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