With only four days before Gujarat faces the first phase of polling, Congress is on its toes now, doing everything possible to nail the victory this time and put an end to their political exile in the state.
Soon after BJP won with a historic victory in the Uttar Pradesh civic elections, BJP has become all the confident and everyone is of the belief that is surely has dropped the confidence of the Congress. Even on Monday after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi filed the nomination papers for the post of President of Congress, the party bore a lot of criticism from all side for following dynastic politics and rigging the elections. However, the UP poll results or the allegations of dynastic politics does not seem to have moved the Congress even a bit. The only thing that it is focusing right now is nailing victory in Gujarat by hook or by crook.
Rahul Gandhi, unperturbed by the criticism that is flowing in from all directions regarding his elevation as the President of Congress is working day and night to get to the goal of defeating BJP in Gujarat and making the existence of Congress felt in the political equation in India. The Congress leader will kick-start his final battle ahead of the 9 Dec polling today, by hosting a number of rallies and meetings from 5 to 7 December. On Tuesday, 5 December, he is scheduled to visit Anjar, Morbi, Dhrangadhra, and Wadhwan districts in north Gujarat.
Ahead of the polls, the Congress has released its election manifesto promising a number of things to the Gujaratis if voted to power. In the past two-three months, both BJP and Congress are engaged in a furious battle to win the power in the poll-bound state and there are no second doubts that both the parties are trying hard to defeat the other. BJP has been ruling in Gujarat more than two decades now, so having an upper hand, it was or say is confident of nailing 150+ setas, However, with Rahul Gandhi personally looking after the campaigning and taking every possible step to prove the confidence of BJP wrong is also more or less, giving a tough fight to BJP making the latter a bit restless.
One of the key points of the Congress manifesto is giving special quota to the Patidars, a promise on the basis of which the Patidar agitation spearhead had extended the support of the Patidars to the Congress. It was one of the demands of Hardik Patel that the promise of Congress giving quota to the Ptidars be included in the manifesto.
The opposition party keeping its promise has included the Special category’ quota for weaker communities with similar rights enjoyed by OBCs in its manifesto along with other things. The party, if voted to power has also promised, arm loan waiver, setting up of ‘Indira canteens’ to provide nutritious food for laborers at Rs 10, setting up Economically Backward Classes Commission (EBCS) for educational and economic development of deprived people among the upper castes, 16-hour power supply for farmers and cancellation of amended Land Acquisition Act, awarding ownership of LIG (Low Income Group) houses to women, an unemployment allowance for educated youth, slashing prices of both petrol and diesel by Rs 10 per litre.
“Equal opportunity and equal empowerment of all citizens is the fundamental policy of Congress party,” the manifesto said. According to the Congress’ electoral agreement with Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamant Andolan Samiti (PAAS), in order to fulfill the demand of the Patidars, the party has promised to give reservation to the Ptidars by creating a special category and granting them all benefits of the OBC quota, without disturbing the 50% reservation cap granted by the Indian Constitution.
The manifesto released in a press conference by the Gujarat Congress in charge, Ashok Gehlot and state party President Bharatsinh Solanki, also promised separate ministry for minorities and implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations.
The manifesto also promised the creation of fast-track courts to tackle crimes against women, ending the contract system in government jobs and making workers on contract permanent and providing Rs 4,000 per month as allowance for the unemployed youth. “Youths who want to set up industry will be given 250-500 sq meter plots at competitive rates and provided loans up to Rs 5 lakh at 5 percent interest,” it said.
During the press conference, when questioned about special promises for the minorities, Bharatsinh Solanki said that the manifesto was designed keeping everyone in mind and his team gave the details of the welfare plans for different casts including the Patidars and Devipujaks. Regarding the reservation to the Patidars which is not possible under the OBC quota as per their demand, the Congress said that the party will introduce a bill under Article 46 which will give all rights given to Other Backward Classes to communities specified under Article 46.
“Under the bill, weaker communities who have not received any benefits of the reservation will be given equal opportunity for education and economic development and conferred all rights given to OBCs under this specific category,” the manifesto read.
The Gujarat Congress President, Bharatsinh Solanki, also said that Congress will set up a special investigation team to probe allegations of financial irregularities during the BJP rule. He further added that special investigation will be done regarding irregularities worth over Rs 100,000 crore as highlighted in CAG and other reports.
The Congress in its manifesto has also listed that it will set up ‘Swami Vivekanand Education Foundation, which will provide a free scholarship to the students for their education from pre-primary level to Ph.D., who belong to the poor and middle-class family. The party also said that it will reduce the fee burden by 80 percent by concerting the self-financed courses in government and aided institutions into grant-in-aid courses.
The manifesto also provided free education to girls from primary to higher education. It also listed providing kerosene to even those families, who are availing the Centre’s Ujjwala gas connection. The Congress will also introduce ‘Sardar Patel Universal Healthcare Card’ for healthcare at government hospitals and free medicines through ‘Rajiv Gandhi Pharmacy’ chains.
Regarding the electricity and property taxes, the Congres manifesto promised to slash the rates by 50 percent. It said that if voted to power, the government will charge Rs 2 per unit for up to 200 units on household power consumption.
The fast-track courts set up by the Congress if it forms the government in Gujarat will also deal with cases of defaults, cheque bounce, cheating, fraud, extortion, land grabbing etc. The party claimed that it will ensure equal work equal pay and will increase the minimum wages for the laborers. It also assured financial assistance and pension to widows, senior citizens and the differently-abled.
In order to stop the migration, the Congress manifesto listed adoption of smart village policy, that will make provisions for ponds, playgrounds, sanitation and drinking water supply to villages. Congress has also promised construction of 25 lakh houses in the next five years under various schemes like Indira Aawas Yojana, Rajiv Gandhi Aawas Yojana and Ambedkar Aawas Yojana.
The Gujarat Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki in his statement to the press informed that the manifesto was created keeping in mind the needs of all the classes and castes. He also added that the approach was to shift focus away from GDP to Gross National Happiness Index (GNHI).
“Our approach is a shift away from GDP to GNHI, as all our policies will be targeted for improving happiness index of the public like we see in countries like Bhutan, Norway and Sweden,” he said.