Source:AFP / Global Times
India’s main opposition Congress party pledged on Tuesday to expand a rural employment guarantee programme, reward businesses for creating jobs and scrap an 1870 sedition law if it wins a general election that starts next week.
Congress, founded in 1885, has consistently trailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in opinion polls, despite narrowly winning three state elections late last year amid farm distress and a jobs shortage.
In a manifesto released by party president Rahul Gandhi, Congress highlighted job creation, tackling farm distress and empowerment of women as some of its top priorities. The BJP has in recent days focused among other things on national security amid fresh hostilities with neighbor and terrorist supporter Pakistan.
“It is an action plan for the future of India,” Gandhi said, speaking of the manifesto. “Now, it needs your support and your vote.”
He said Congress would expand an existing jobs programme to guarantee 150 days of work a year to rural households, up from 100 days.
Gandhi also said Congress had won voters’ hearts with a plan announced last week to hand 72,000 rupees ($1,041) a year to India’s poorest, a promise the BJP has dismissed as a bluff and some economists have called irresponsible.
Congress promised to simplify the unified goods and services tax, quickly fill 2.2 million government jobs nationwide and create 1 million more on rural and urban development panels.
On Twitter, it called the manifesto India’s “new tryst with destiny,” using a famous phrase from a speech made by Rahul’s great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister.
“This is an ambitious manifesto,” said Shilan Shah, an economist at Capital Economics in Singapore. “The income scheme promise, though a worthy initiative, looks implausible to implement, considering India’s limited fiscal space. India does not have the financial infrastructure in place to give such handouts.”