Fighting the Lok Sabha polls with its back to the wall, the Congress on Wednesday promised in its manifesto pro-poor measures, including the right to affordable healthcare, housing and pension.
In addition, Goods and Service Tax and Direct Tax Code Bill are promised within one year of the next Parliament. Also a National Fiscal Responsibility Council and National Investment Facilitation Authority are mentioned in the manifesto to oversee the quick removal of bottlenecks for environment clearance, one of the biggest grumbles against the UPA-II regime.
The delays in the clearances are said to have slowed the economy leading to grave political consequences. But the most curious proposal that stands out, is the promise of appointing a Special Envoy on (to get) black money stashed away in overseas accounts back into the legitimate economy. Not to mention the assertion that no retro-action taxation will be attempted again.
Brought about by 30 public consultations that party vice president Rahul Gandhi held, the “unique” process of manifesto making was showcased in a short-film screened prior to the unveiling of the “lengthy” text tilted ‘Your Voice, Our Pledge’.
The venue and the décor, personally overseen by party chief Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi, bore traces of the changed milieu. It was the same tri-colour pandal but with a difference. Gone were hullabaloo associated with such events at the AICC lawns - everything was manicured, much like a corporate event.
Little wonder the star of the show, brother Rahul extolling the 2014 elections as “an ideological war, not about an individual (Modi)” altered his script a bit: “We can neither be only talking about the poor, nor can we only talk about the corporate sector.” He admitted they are inter-dependent - it’s with the backing of sustained growth that welfare measures can be taken.
The ‘social economic rights’ issue came in at this point, elaborated as rights to health, pension, housing, social security, dignity and humane working conditions, and entrepreneurship. In short, the sky has been promised.
“Together, these rights will provide an economic platform for people below the middle class to transform their lives through their own efforts than government handouts,” the manifesto said.