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What Congress poll manifesto signals

What Congress poll manifesto signals

It is not just what is promised but also what is omitted that matters.

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Last Updated : 08 April 2024, 22:35 IST
Last Updated : 08 April 2024, 22:35 IST
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Election manifestos promise the moon, but parties forget most of the promises once they come to power. There have been suggestions that wild and unrealistic promises should be banned in manifestos, but that is not right. Manifestos are a matter between parties and voters, who should make a judgement on them. They often represent political positions and even compromises, rather than actionable promises.

The manifesto released by the Congress on Friday should also be seen in that light. Most promises in it are based on its criticism of the Narendra Modi government, especially in the last few years. The manifesto charts a path the party thinks it should take politically and ideologically in a polity redrawn by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Congress tries to focus on ensuring what it regards as comprehensive justice by addressing such issues as unemployment, poverty, healthcare, farmers’ welfare, and inequality. It calls its manifesto a ‘Nyay Patra’ with five pillars of justice and 25 guarantees. The guarantees include a new caste census, removal of the 50% ceiling on reservations, right to apprenticeship, minimum support price as a legal right, adoption of the Rajasthan model of insurance for healthcare, and scrapping of the Agnipath scheme.

It promises a relook at laws that hinder free speech and place stringent conditions on bail, now used by the central agencies as tools of harassment. There is also the offer of Rs 1 lakh per year to every poor family. But the omissions are also important. It promises restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, but not of Article 370. It is also silent on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Even when manifestos are discussed for their promises and omissions, what matters is whether a party can take its message to the people. It must appeal to the people. A lot might also depend on the packaging of the promises. The party should also have the means and the personnel to take its message to the people. There is a view that the Congress failed to achieve this in the 2019 general elections while it was able to take its guarantees to the voters in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections. It now has the challenge of taking its manifesto to the people, and making it credible.

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