Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Of Manifestos & Congress Party’s Backward March

“Reaching for their grubby lecture notes, scribbled at the pre-war London School of Economics, the second generation socialists went into action. They produced between them, the Labour Party’s Manifesto of 1945. Under the inspiring title Let us Face the Future, its authors planned to solve the problems of the past.”

- C. Northcote Parkinson in Left Luggage

Instead of the ‘second generation socialists’, the motley crowd of Naxalites and pseudo-economists that infest the NAC, have gone into action, with a similar backward vision to produce the Congress party’s 2014 Manifesto.

The grand document opens with a lie in its first paragraph, in the statement that the “Indian National Congress made seminal contribution to India’s unity, integrity, secular polity and democratic federalism.” Wasn’t it under the Indian National Congress that India lost 38000 square kilometres of land to China and 78000 squarekilometres to Pakistan?

And then, instead of telling the voter what it intends to do to solve the myriad problems that plague the nation, if it were returned to power, it gets down to bash its principal opposition, the BJP. Scroll down to the next page and you will have a surprise. Splashed in the centre of the page in large caps is the question, ‘CONGRE SS OR BJP’ without the question mark. The space you see between ‘CONGRE’ and ‘SS’ is not a typo in this article, but is as seen in the downloaded .pdf document.

The party’s report card informs us that ‘the Congress-led UPA has brought 14 crore people out of poverty in the last ten years.’ Oh, yeah! These people can now eat a sumptuous meal @ between `1 and `12! 

Whoever has written the manifesto is adept at fabricating history. The economic reforms were advanced by a decade to credit them to Rajiv Gandhi and the dynasty and to rob P. V. Narasimha Rao of his due:

“In the 1980’s, economic reforms were launched in response to new challenges, to modernise the Indian economy…”

There is this ‘Right to entrepreneurship’ in the ‘15 Point Agenda For Socio-Economic And Political Transformation’. Now, what the heck is ‘right to entrepreneurship’? Is it ‘entrepreneurship’ of the Robert Vadra variety or the crony capitalism of the A. Raja type? For the rest there is a ‘pledge’ in answer to every criticism levelled by Narendra Modi in his critiques of UPA’s 10 year misrule in his electioneering! The party pledges to achieve in five years what it could not in ten years! The pernicious Communal Violence Bill finds a place in this section.

Sonia Gandhi’s ‘tireless campaign and vision’ does not fail Parkinson! How does one reconcile [the resolve to] ‘promote a more flexible labour policy as needed for maintaining competitiveness’ (3 i. p. 10) with ‘strengthening collective bargaining’ (5. p. 14)? Was page 10 written by Jairam Ramesh and page 14 by the bots in the NAC?

Having run the economy into the ground during the last ten years the party seems to have woken up to the perils of its profligacy. It therefore slips this slice of wisdom into the fine print of the section, ‘An Economic Roadmap for 2014 - 2019’ (This section seems to have been written by a different hand, as evidenced by the fact that the articles in this section are not numbered with Arabic as elsewhere but Roman numerals.):     

vii. Subsidies: Given the limited resources, and the many claims on the resources, we must choose the subsidies that are absolutely necessary and give them only to the absolutely deserving.

And then there is the middle class which is the most pliant in conforming to economic laws. Having been conditioned to put up with abysmal levels of service in all public utilities for over six decades under its decadent rule, the Congress party feels it would not now mind being taxed to receive what is its due:

We will also consider introducing sensible user charges because many more people are willing to pay for better quality services, for example, uninterrupted power and better quality train services. We will use this money saved to expand health, education and infrastructure. 

The difficulty with this formulation is that it ignores the amorphous nature of the middle class. The middle class ranges from a call centre employee who draws a monthly salary of `10000 to a software engineer who is paid upwards of  `100000.

Even after the Supreme Court threw the `10000 plus crore Aadhaar card scheme out of the window the following paragraph finds mention in the section, ‘Accelerating Job Creation and Skill Development’:

4. Aadhaar is a powerful tool for protecting the interests of migrant labour, as well as ensuring the smooth flow of remittances to their families. All migrant labour will be covered under the Aadhaar programme in the next one year, through a special campaign.

The party considers the Communal Violence Bill so important that it finds a second mention under the section, ‘Safeguarding Minorities’ in the ‘Detailed Action Plan 2014 - 2019’. There are several others, detailed elsewhere, which were repeated in the section, probably to make up the bulk.

The party does not bother to broach about terrorism (the section on Internal Security deals with Left Wing Extremism) but has a small paragraph tucked in the foreign policy section:

7. On Pakistan we will encourage the new government’s stated position to improve relations with India but calibrate the dialogue consistent with delivery on accountability for 26/11 as well as dismantling of the infrastructure of terrorism on Pakistani soil.

The manifesto, long on rhetoric and short on substance, ends with again cribbing and cawing about its principal opposition, the BJP.

It is for the people of this country to decide whether they would like to vote for a party that does not even wish to utter the word ‘terrorism’ in its manifesto. 


  1. Why only terroism?
    Let anyone give me one issue of national importance which finds place in Cong manifesto.
    They talk of minorities,of dolesand all the promises they have been making for last 60 years.
    Who knws---for next few decades cong wont find a neeed to write a manifesto

    1. You are absolutely right. The manifesto does not have anything substantive to offer. It offers reservations, doles and more doles. Let us hope and pray that your prophecy that for the next few decades the Congress will not have to labour much about making a manifesto, comes true!