Cong promises more rights and the moon

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RaGa mantra: Right to health, housing, pension; job quota in private sector; GST, DTC in 100 days

Cong promises more rights and the moon
Stung by policy paralysis, the Congress-led UPA government might have failed to deliver on growth, prices and jobs in the last five years but its election manifesto on Wednesday promised to get back to a booming economy, moderate prices, create 10 crore new jobs and lift the country’s 14 crore poor into middle class, if elected for a third time.

The manifesto, put together after more than 30 consultations with stakeholders across the country over five months, promised to return to high economic growth of 8 per cent in three years and achieve 10 per cent growth in manufacturing.

Chalking out a 15-point agenda for India’s socio-economic and political transformation, the manifesto released by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, promised a slew of new rights to the people — like right to health, pension, housing, social security, dignity, humane working conditions and entrepreneurship. This initiative included promoting flexible labour laws, systemic efforts to recover black money and increasing health expenditure to 3 per cent of GDP.

The party also expressed its commitment to create a national consensus on affirmative action for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes for jobs in the private sector.

The new rights will supplement rights to food, information, education, employment and fighting corruption established during the UPA I and UPA II governments during the last 10 years.

The manifesto was released in the presence of prime minister Manmohan Singh, manifesto committee chairman and defence minister A K Antony and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi held consultations with various sections of society and went through 1.3 lakh suggestions to reflect the voices and aspirations of the people.

Claiming that the 90 per cent of the promises made in the Congress’ 2009 election manifesto stood fulfilled, Sonia Gandhi said in the first 100 days of forming the next government, the Congress would bring in the two tax reform legislations — the GST bill and the direct tax code.

It will also announce a detailed employment agenda to create 10 crore new jobs, amend the fiscal responsibility and budget management (FRBM) act, set up a permanent national investment facilitation authority for smooth passage of delayed passage and bring in a bill to set up a national environmental appraisal and monitoring authority.

As regards its commitment to reforms, the manifesto said the Congress will continue to promote “an open and competitive economy, open to global and domestic competition.”

Referring to the controversial retrospective tax amendment, which was criticised by global investors, the manifesto said, “We will ensure that unpredictable risk of retroactive taxation is avoided.”

The Congress, it said, would promote greater integration with the global economy and encourage FDI, especially in labour intensive sectors.

It would also set up a regulatory reform task force to review all regulatory processes of central government ministries, enunciate a clear policy in tax treatment of foreign firms and M&A transactions, push financial sector reforms and lay out a clear roadmap for dealing with immediate issues of PSU banks.

Dismissing BJP’s allegations of failure to deliver during UPA II, Manmohan Singh gave statistics to claim that his 10-year rule had delivered more than the NDA with regard to growth, poverty reduction, investment, power generation, job creation, roads, trade, agriculture and industrial growth.

On the issue of rampant corruption during UPA II, Singh said, “The BJP felt I am a weak prime minister that I will run away from the job. I have proved them wrong. Corruption is an issue in a developing country and it cannot be wished away. Every effort has to be made and the Congress party has worked out a blueprint to ensure corruption becomes a thing of the past. The next Congress government will able to overcome this.”

Opposition BJP, however, was critical of the government’s handling of the economy, saying the UPA had ‘squandered’ a chance to take advantage of high growth rate left by the NDA in 2004, a charge refuted by the Congress which said, its record was better on several parameters.

To a question about opinion polls having indicated the possibility of the BJP forming the next government, Sonia Gandhi said: “I frankly admit I do not have much faith in opinion polls and 2004 and 2009 elections were examples of that… I am quite confident we will do well. We will win the elections.”

Rahul Gandhi, who was present, said the only way India can move forward is when the government focuses on business, poor and deprived people. “Next five years, we are going to put in $1 trillion in infrastructure that will create millions of jobs. The people who are living in villages, we are going to give them floor to run business through skill development,” he said.

Agreeing with the prime minister that it would be a disaster if BJP’s Narendra Modi became the prime minister, Rahul Gandhi said “I tend to support his (Singh’s) view. The issue here is not an individual… The issue here is an ideology, basically questioning the fundamentals of what the country stands for. The real issue is the danger represented by that ideology.”

CII welcomed the Congress manifesto, saying it would go a long way in supporting inclusive growth. “CII is happy to note that the manifesto has pledged to restore India to eight per cent plus growth rate within three years and boost manufacturing to 10 per cent with special emphasis on small and medium enterprises. This will have to be done by ensuring globally competitive business and investment-friendly environment,” it said.

“The Congress manifesto provides an aspirational vision on many key concerns facing the economic life of the nation and the people. Inclusive growth is an imperative, however the wide variety of rights must be only based on sound economic health of the country. Ficci awaits an evolving roadmap in due course,” Ficci president Sidharth Birla said .


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