Thursday, 19 September 2019

Manifesto 2019: Congress’ self-interest Vs BJP’s future ‘Bharat’

Updated: April 15, 2019 3:42 pm

The last Five years of Narendra Modi led NDA government has been full of surprise as it took many decisions which were beyond the mind of political Pundits. Who had thought of GST, demonetization, reservation to general category, surgical and air strike in Pakistan? Perhaps, no one! These were not part of BJP’s manifesto in 2014, but the Modi government took this decisive steps. However, the manifesto has a role to present the vision of a political parties towards its people and the country. It gives an idea to the people that what can their elected representative do for the welfare of them.

India’s main opposition party Congress and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently announced their manifesto. Congress in its manifesto assured some tall promises, while BJP maintained to accelerate the initiative taken by Narendra Modi led government.

Welfare of marginalised

The big takeaway of Congress Manifesto is its Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) scheme which assures the cash transfer of Rs. 72,000 a year to 5 crore poor families.  The total amount is more than 3.5 Lakh crore per year. Reacting on this scheme, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said, “true to its past record of promising the moon to win elections, Congress President announces a scheme that will bust fiscal discipline, create strong incentives against work and which will never be implemented.”

“Nyay, in the Manifesto, has now become a joint scheme of Central & the State governments. thereby diluting the initial announcement that Nyay will be over & above existing schemes. It is visible through Manifesto that “Nyay” is an all-time big Congress bluff,” said Senior BJP leader and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Here it is significant to mention that the Congress in its 2004 manifesto had promised NREGA to win the election and it succeeded too. Therefore this time also, Congress has played a freebies card to stop Narendra Modi. However, Congress has not clarified how it would be implemented because this is a huge amount.

In this regard, instead of giving freebies to the poor families and farmers, BJP has assured to start some schemes for the welfare of marginalised people.

BJP in the the manifesto has said that it will launch a pension scheme for all small and marginal farmers in the country so as to ensure social security to them on reaching 60 years of age and the party is committed to making an investment of Rs. 25 lakh crore to improve the productivity of the farm sector. It further adds that it will provide short-term new agriculture loans up to Rs. 1 lakh at a 0% interest rate for 1-5 years on the condition of prompt repayment of the principal amount.

It is worth mentioning that recently, in the interim budget to provide assured income support to the small and marginal farmers, Modi Government launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN). Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land up to 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year. This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs. 2,000 each.

The fact of the matter is that  BJP has assured to work on the real problem, while Congress has forcibly tried to avoid the problem through free distribution.

AFSPA and J&K

The most contentious part of Congress’s Manifesto is its proposal to amend 124A of  Indian Penal Code and Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.

According to the manifesto, the Congress has said that party will abrogate 124A of the Indian Penal Code that defines the offence of ‘sedition’.  Congress Manifesto says that this law has been misused and, in any event, has become redundant because of subsequent laws.

On AFSPA, the Congress Manifesto says that if the party comes to power, it would “Amend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 in order to strike a balance between the powers of security forces and the human rights of citizens and to remove immunity for enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture.”

On Jammu & Kashmir, the Congress has promised to review AFSPA.  “The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act in J&K will be reviewed. Suitable changes will be made in the text of the laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights,” says the Congress Manifesto.

Reacting on this Congress’s promise on AFSPA and 124A, senior BJP leader and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that 2019 Congress Manifesto is a Charter to Weaken India. After reading Congress Manifesto my worst fears have come true, he added. The repeal of S.124A of the IPC, diluting AFSPA & “bail is the rule jail is the exception” for terrorists & hardcore criminals will compromise national security. He further added that the Congress Manifesto undermines national security and has sham and bluff promises with little detailed understanding of the subjects involved. It is an irresponsible document which has never to be implemented since Congress looks a certain loser.

It’s worth mentioning that Congress has played AFSPA card to garner votes of J&K and northeast.  However it is also true that in the last five years NDA has removed AFSPA  in some parts of the northeast by reviewing the situation, but it has never talked about repealing it. This is also accurate that by promising amendment in AFSPA Congress has indirectly questioned the security forces and their actions in insurgency-hit areas. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that Congress has justified the demands of separatists and stone palters who have been opposing security forces in Kashmir.

On the other hand, BJP in its manifesto has promised to abrogate controversial Article 370 and 35A. The BJP has said that the Party is committed to overcome all obstacles that come in the way of development and provide adequate financial resources to all the regions of the state. Party reiterates its position since the time of the Jan Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370.

The party is committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir. It further adds that the party believes that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state and will take all steps to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for all residents of the state.

The issue of Kashmiri Pandits has still not been resolved and they are still living in exile on their own land.  On this issue, the BJP manifesto says that the party will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits and it will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and Chhamb.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure development not only expedites the economy through rapid transportation but also provides job to low skilled labourers. The Congress manifesto says that it will expand the total length of national highways and increase the pace of construction. The focus will be on improved design and quality, maintenance and accountability.

It’s worth mentioning here that according to the data released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), the pace of road construction have been doubled in the last five years of the Modi government compared to UPA tenure. The construction pace under the NDA government was 27km/day in FY18. While in the last year of UPA-2 during FY14, road construction was 11.7km/day.

In this regard, BJP manifesto says that it will aim at next generation infrastructure which will include gas grids and water grids, i-ways, regional airports and way side amenities along National Highways.

It further adds that if the party is voted to power, it will construct 60,000 kms of National Highways in the next five years. it will double the length of National Highways by 2022 and bring in new technologies and designs in road construction, operation and maintenance.

If one looks at both BJP and Congress’s manifesto on infrastructure, it could be easily understood that what Congress has assured, BJP led NDA government has already taken some steps to work on those areas. For instance, Congress has promised that it will provide electricity and LPG connections in villages. But one cannot deny that Modi government really did better in terms of providing electricity and LPG connection to the maximum number of people.

National Security

The biggest concern of the world at this juncture is terrorism and India is fighting this since decades due to proxy war by neighbouring Pakistan. The issue of national security is on page number 25th in Congress Manifesto while it is on page number 11 in BJP’s manifesto.

The Congress’ manifesto says that the the party will increase the defence spending to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces. It further adds that it will rapidly expand domestic capacity to manufacture defence and security equipment and create manufacturing capacities in the public sector and in the pre-qualified, security-cleared private sector companies.

However, it cannot be gainsaid that the NDA led government has done several defence deal to manufacture defence equipments in India through ‘Make In India’ initiative and the recent opening of Russian AK-203 automatic rifles’ manufacturing unit in Amethi is the best example.

While the BJP’s Manifesto talks about Zero tolerance on terrorism which adds that BJP’S security doctrine will be guided by national security interest only. It further adds that BJP will speed up the purchases of outstanding defense-related equipments and weapons. In order to equip the Armed Forces with modern equipment, it will continue to take focused steps to strengthen the strike capability of the Armed Forces.

By Ravi Mishra

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