CHANDIGARH: It is a vote for realistic versus populist poll promises in the election to 90-member Assembly in Haryana, where the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress are locked in a straight contest.
Riding high on pro-incumbency and the Modi wave, BJP Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar believes he will take his party's tally to '75 plus' from the present 47 legislators, while Congress' two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has been raising the pitch against unemployment, law and order and lack of development.
The other opposition parties in the fray are two prominent regional political outfits -- the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and its breakaway the Jannayak Janata Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Swaraj India and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
With no promises to waive farm debt or job reservations for women, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says its 25-page 'Sankalp Patra' titled 'Mhare Sapne Ka Haryana' is more realistic and practical than its rival Congress' "populist" manifesto.
Focusing on farmers, labourers, youth and industrialists, the saffron party manifesto pledges to give an interest-free crop loan of up to Rs 3 lakh to farmers and promises to complete a target of Rs 5,000 crore interest and penalty waiver on crop loans taken from cooperative banks.
The BJP has also promised to give collateral-free loan of up to Rs 3 lakh to people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and free education to two girls from families whose total annual income is less than Rs 1.8 lakh.
The Congress is trying to woo the youth, farmers and women with the promise of an allowance of Rs 10,000 per month to all unemployed post-graduates and Rs 7,000 to all unemployed undergraduates in its manifesto.
It has also promised 33 per cent reservation to women in government jobs and 50 per cent reservation in Panchayati Raj Institutions, in municipal corporations and city councils if it is voted to power in the state.
For the farmers in the predominantly agricultural state, the Congress has promised a loan waiver within 24 hours of application, and says the benefit would also be provided to landless farmers.
Khattar claims the Congress manifesto with a focus on loan waiver to farmers and job reservations to women is unrealistic as it would require Rs 1,26,000 crore to fulfill the poll promise.
"It is totally unrealistic with no budgetary provisions. Our manifesto needs a budget allocation of Rs 32,000 crore that can be easily meted out through state funds," he told the media.
He said his government would give benefits to farmers in the form of better prices for their produce. The BJP manifesto makes no promise of loan waiver but there is a promise to compensate the farmers for damage to the crops due to natural calamities.
Khattar believes the manifesto is in line with the principles of creating a Ram Rajya, meaning an honest government with zero tolerance to corruption and transparency.
However, political observers say unemployment, deteriorating law and order, mounting debt and poor remunerative crop prices are major roadblocks in Khattar's smooth sail for his second consecutive stint.
Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav said state's total liabilities were Rs 76,263 crore in 2013-14. At that time the BJP government promised to free the state of this debt. "Now the liabilities stand at Rs 179,744 crore," he mocked.
Quoting a report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy for May to August, Yadav said the number of unemployed in the state has crossed 20 lakh, adding out of these 4.5 lakh are either graduate or have a higher degree.
Hooda, who is seeking votes on the basis of his 10-year stint (2004 to 2014) as the Chief Minister, describes the Khattar dispensation as a "government of scams", which promotes "divisive politics".
The state has burnt thrice with Khattar at its helm, state Congress president Kumari Selja said in an apparent reference to the violence during incidents related to self-styled godmen Rampal and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and the Jat agitation.
She said the crime rate in the state was 36 per cent and there was a substantial increase in rape cases.
Taking a dig at Khattar's slogan of '75 plus' seats, Hooda said it (the BJP) would not cross the 75-mark, but onions and diesel had crossed the (Rs) 75-mark.Khattar's slogan 'Mission 75' got louder after the BJP's stellar performance in the Lok Sabha polls by winning all 10 seats.
In the 2014 Haryana Assembly polls, the BJP won 47 seats, while the INLD and the Congress got 19 and 15 seats, respectively.
BJP's ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BSP won one seat each and Independents five seats.
The state will go to the polls on October 21 and results will be declared on October 24.