Free Press Journal

Congress, BJP manifestos have similar themes but differ on specifics


New Delhi: The Congress and BJP manifestos for the 2014 general elections have talked about revival of economy, job creation and expansion of welfare initiatives but appear to differ in scope, thrust, range and specifics of their promises.

Soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party released its poll manifesto Monday, the Congress accused the party of “blind copying.”

The BJP manifesto “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat (One India, Great India)” has a prominent photograph of the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi along with those of several other senior party leaders.

The Congress manifesto “Your voice, our pledge”, which was released March 26, has a prominent photograph of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi along with those of party president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

While the BJP manifesto appeared to score low on specifics, it covered several issues in greater detail over the Congress document and expanded on themes such as water security, external security and nuclear programme.

The BJP manifesto laid top-most emphasis on combating price rise, employment, corruption and “decision paralysis” — issues it feels have traction with the youth and the aspiring classes.

The Congress manifesto started with a 15-point agenda for economic and socio-economic and political transformation.

The BJP manifesto talks about setting up a Price Stabilisation Fund to check price rise. The party accused the Congress of policy paralysis and said it will revisit the policy framework for domestic and foreign investments, undertake banking reforms, strictly implement measures for fiscal discipline and encourage savings.

The Congress said it will implement a 100-day plan for growth, unveil a new jobs agenda, restore economic growth to above 8 percent in three years, ensure 10 percent growth rate in manufacturing, and investment of $1 trillion over the next years in infrastructure.

The BJP promised to set up an AIIMS-like institution in every state and initiate ‘National Health Assurance Mission’ to provide universal health care which is accessible and affordable. The Congress has talked about Right to Health.

The BJP said it will set up a task force to bring back black money stashed abroad. The Congress said it will appoint a “special envoy” for the purpose.

The BJP talked about meeting aspirations of “neo-middle class” — those who had risen from the category of poor but are yet to stabilise in the middle class.

The BJP also promised to roll out a low-cost housing programme to give every family a “pucca house” in the next eight years. The Congress said it will continue to work towards affordable and quality housing for all sections. It has also talked about Right to Housing for the poor.

The BJP also said it will explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution for construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. It said the party will discuss Article 370 with all stakeholders but remains committed to its abrogation. The issues do not find mention in the Congress manifesto.

Both Congress and BJP have laid emphasis on decentralisation.

While the BJP manifesto referred to many issues in general terms without timelines, the Congess manifesto had specific promises, many of them on issues raised by party vice president Rahul Gandhi.

Congress leaders accused the BJP of copying ideas from its manifesto on a range of issues, including skill development, welfare of the emerging middle class, pension and housing.

Union Minister Jairam Ramesh termed the BJP as “a party of Kumbhkarnas” and said its manifesto was a hastily prepared document about initiatives already in place.

“Clearly no one in BJP bothered to do their homework,” he remarked.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said it was a case of “blind copying”.

Referring to the BJP’s reference to neo-middle class, he said Rahul Gandhi had been talking for almost a year of 70 crore (700 million) people who were above poverty line but needed to be brought into the middle class fold over the next five years.