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  Opinion   Edit  05 Apr 2024  AA Edit | Manifestos have vision, but are they deliverable?

AA Edit | Manifestos have vision, but are they deliverable?

Published : Apr 5, 2024, 11:59 pm IST
Updated : Apr 5, 2024, 11:59 pm IST

Opposition manifestos: A mix of vision & messaging. Focus on social justice, farmer welfare, unemployment

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during a press conference for the release of the party's manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Friday, April 5, 2024. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary)
 Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during a press conference for the release of the party's manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Friday, April 5, 2024. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary)

There might be healthy scepticism about the relevance of manifestos released ahead of polls. But, given the deep polarisation that has taken place in Indian polity in the last 10 years, the manifestos of the Opposition parties, including that of the Congress which came after those of the DMK and CPI(M), were bound to carry a lot of political messaging, besides somewhat fanciful commitments that may not be easy to fulfil.

Predictably, a heavy dose of ideological vision has been presented, as reflected most in the call for a national caste census as part of social justice objectives and the promise of huge commitments to the farmers like loan waivers and legal status to the Minimum Support Price programme based on M.S. Swaminathan committee recommendations (cost plus 50 percent).

The pledges being made to the farming community, no doubt laudable, are huge and the danger of such commitments breaking the bank of the Central government are not to be ignored. Of course, the cynically inclined would point out that UPA-1 and UPA-2 did little about fulfilling those criteria.

Regardless of who comes to power, anything done for the farm sector, which has offered India food security for decades, will be welcomed. How much the exchequer can afford it might be the limiting factor here rather than the will to look after those who are providers of food to millions, including the 800 million who are to receive subsidised or free rations.

The intention to raise the daily wage to the unemployed who seek subsistence as in the MNREGA scheme and the declaration to tackle unemployment are bound to resonate with the aspirational youth of India who are being choked by a bleak jobs scenario.

Where the promises become contentious is in such a premise as Rs 1 lakh per year to one woman in every household because the parties offering such doles have hardly fulfilled them even in states they rule in. For instance, Tamil Nadu is yet to hand out Rs 6,000 it promised all women affected by floods last year in just four districts.

The EVMs have been the object of suspicion, mostly among the losers. Yet it was they who made us believe that standalone EVMs are the best possible electoral innovation in striving to serve a growing electorate, now set to cross the 900 million mark in 2024.

How backward any wish to go back to paper ballots would sound, after having won two general elections and ruled at the Centre from 2004 to 2014, is something the Congress-led UPA may have mulled over as it only seeks VVPAT count to validate the verdict.

There are loud promises by the Congress in poverty alleviation. But it must be said that the records of both dispensations when in power have been equally patchy in a ceaseless task akin to Sisyphus pushing a boulder up the hill.

Given the political rumblings over the electoral bonds scheme, struck down by the top court as unconstitutional, it was on the cards that the call for a probe would be sounded. Many parties, including those on the moral high horse now, have encashed the bonds, but none has even promised so far to put any of it back in the Central kitty.

Welfare and development are at the core of the manifestos, which is the good thing about such public declarations of political parties’ ideologies and intentions. How much the voter would be swayed by grand ideas for the benefit of the common man is a matter of conjecture. The declaration of intentions is sound enough, it is in walking the talk that difficulties do arise.


Tags: 2024 lok sabha elections, congress manifesto, social justice