Promising affordable healthcare, housing and help for 70 crore people to join the middle-class club, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday released the party’s manifesto here for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
The manifesto also underscored the commitment to find a way for introducing reservation in education and employment for the economically weaker sections of all communities. Treading a careful path over the politically sensitive reservation issue, the manifesto made it clear that such efforts will not affect the existing reservations for SC/ST and OBCs.
The Congress president, accompanied by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior leaders A K Antony, Janardan Dwivedi and Ajay Maken lauded party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s initiative to involve “half-a-million” people in the manifesto drafting exercise.
Rahul held more than 30 public consultations with different groups, particularly those from the “sandwiched class” comprising 70 crore people just above the poverty line but not in the middle-class, to hear their concerns.
The 48-page document titled “Your Voice Our Pledge” also underlines the party’s commitment to “affirmative action”, a euphemism for reservation, for SC/STs in the private sector.
Under the right to health, the Congress has promised universal, easily accessible and quality health services.
To achieve this, the party has proposed to increase public funding in healthcare to 3 per cent of the GDP from less than 2 per cent, the lowest in the world, at present.
Both Sonia and Rahul claimed that UPA-II had fulfilled 90 per cent of the promises the Congress had made in its 2009 manifesto.
When pointed out that the UPA-II had failed to control price rise and rein in inflation, Singh admitted that prices had risen in the last two-three years due to “reasons beyond our control”.
He also said the rise in prices of foodgrain and vegetables was due to the UPA’s decision to “reward our farmers”.
The manifesto seeks to take away the issue of black money from the BJP by appointing a special envoy to track down and recover.
The manifesto promises a 15-point agenda for socio-economic and political transformation of the country, and assures exclusive 24-hour transport facilities and gender sensitivity classes for the police, particularly in registering and investigating complaints made by women.
A special youth development package for Left-wing extremism affected areas with special focus on women and SC/STs is also envisaged.