Editorial: Congress Generous With Promises

Editorial: Congress Generous With Promises

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Sunday, April 07, 2024, 10:09 PM IST
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Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge | File Pic

The election manifesto of the Congress party was released last Friday. In the 24-hour news cycle it got significant notice. And that is it. Both the party and the voter will move on, turning attention to new events and political developments. For, manifestos do not win elections. Nor are political parties held true to them. Once released with great fanfare, they are soon relegated to the dusty pile of other such documents released by the party over time. Party leaders do not recall, nor do they feel the need to recall, what their manifesto in the previous election had said. For neither the party nor the voter expect the promises made in the manifesto to be implemented. Thus, last Friday the Congress party did not flinch in making extravagant promises on further reservations in government and private sectors. It would implement women’s reservations in Assemblies from 2025, and in Parliament from 2029, reserve 50% jobs for women in central government, 10% reservations in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically weaker sections of all castes and communities castes et al. More importantly, the party will do away with the 50% cap on reservations mandated by the Supreme Court. Quite a few other brave things are part of the party’s legion of promises. Such as national minimum daily wage of Rs 400. Women heads of poor families to be given Rs one lakh per annum. Then there is an employment guarantee scheme for the educated youth. And a complete waiver of all educational loans. We can go on and on in this vein but it should be enough for readers to get the sense as to how low a premium parties put on voters’ intelligence. Surprise is while making such tall promises why did the Congress party baulk at committing to replace the new pension scheme with the old scheme, especially when the party-run state governments had done so ( and are now staring at financial bankruptcy of the State). Again, quite contrary to its strong opposition when the CAA was first passed, the party was silent on it on Friday. Was it right then, or is it right now? of course, the party has promised to abolish the Agniveer scheme for recruitment to the armed forces. Meanwhile, the party has promised to investigate the demonetisation decision as also the Rafale deal. The party also promised to relook at laws, mostly passed by it when it was in power, which restrict freedom of speech and cause arrests to be made without bail for prolonged periods. The reference being to the stringent conditions prescribed in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Called the ‘Nyay Patra’, the manifesto is at complete variance with the Congress’s record in power. Some of the questionable laws the Modi Government is accused of misusing for stifling online dissent were enacted by the Congress government. The controversial Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act, for instance.

As we said above, party manifestos are part of an old tradition when politics was not a cut-throat business and rival leaders could argue calmly and rationally. It was meant to help voters make informed choices on the basis of a party’s ideologies and programmes. Post-economic liberalisation and post-Mandal politics, manifestoes have little relevance either for the electors or the elected. In that sense, Mayawati did well to dispense with the ritual of manifestoes. Unless parties can invest faith and sincerity in manifestoes they too should stop coming up with a largely superfluous document. Meanwhile, isn’t it odd that the INDI alliance member Mamata Banerjee is bitterly opposed to the CAA while Congress’s silence suggests implied approval? In West Bengal the CAA is an election issue. The Congress and the Communists too are fighting elections against the Trinamool Congress and all three parties have serious misgivings on the CAA. Why then did the Congress manifesto choose to remain non-committal on the law? Last but not the least, when nobody gives the Congress to be in any position near power post-poll, releasing a detailed document about its intent and direction at best remains an academic exercise. Joining the battle on the ground ought to be a bigger priority.

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