April 15, 2024


Is the Congress manifesto good?

(Image credit: Mallikarjun Kharge’s X post)

Come election time, there’s a standard procedure that the major parties have to do – formulate and release their manifesto. It’s the document listing everything they’ll do if elected to power. It’s usually a host of economic things like how to reduce unemployment and increase wages, catering to various sections of society.

The Congress has released its manifesto, focussed on the “five pillars of justice.” It included what most people would expect – employment opportunities, cash transfers to women, a caste census, etc. According to some political experts, the party already faces an uphill climb against the BJP. Is the manifesto good enough to make a difference?


Depending on who you ask, election manifestos are either quite important or just a document to show people that you’ve got their concerns front of mind and words on paper. For the party, it’s a to-do list if they get voted into power. For voters, it’s something of a test to see if the party is paying attention to things. Keep in mind that these manifestos aren’t legal documents.

The Supreme Court clarified that promises made in these manifestos can’t be considered “corrupt practices” under the Representation of the People Act. But the court has noted and expressed concern about the role of “freebies” that parties announce during campaigning. It could distort the electoral process by promising too much for free when, in reality, it could cost the government a lot of money.

While manifestos get a lot of media attention, the reality is that most people don’t read them. They’ll probably read headlines about them. An interesting analysis of party manifestos over the decades showed economic planning, welfare, and development dominate. That’s to be expected since all parties want to woo voters with promises of better jobs, higher incomes, and a higher standard of living.

The rise of coalition politics, according to some, has diluted the importance of manifestos. That hasn’t stopped parties from preparing and releasing them. Coalition governments sometimes embark on ‘common minimum programmes’ that don’t resemble any party manifesto.

When the AAP came into the fray in 2013, contesting in Delhi, it drafted different manifestos for different constituencies. When its ideas were scrutinised, it had to backtrack. In 2014, the Congress manifesto sought to reverse its negative perception in light of corruption scandals and promised to make amends.

Since then, the Congress party’s manifesto has become bolder. The headline from its most recent one is the five pillars of justice – “Yuva Nyay, Naari Nyay, Kisaan Nyay, Shramik Nyay and Hissedari Nyay” and 25 guarantees under them.

On the economic front, there’s a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP), a ₹400 per day national minimum wage, and a right to apprenticeship. In terms of social justice, there’s the promise of an all-India caste survey and a 10% quota in jobs and educational institutions for economically weaker sections for all castes and communities. These are just a handful of the party’s promises. Is the manifesto enough to win the country’s trust?

VIEW: Positive, progressive, and necessary

The Congress manifesto, according to some, hits all the right notes. A manifesto shouldn’t just be about being against something but putting forward a vision for something. In many ways, the manifesto achieves that balance by highlighting what’s happened to India and Indian democracy over the past decade and how the party can begin to fix things. In this way, equality and social justice are the right themes chosen by the party.

Some might have baulked at the “freedom from fear” promise a decade ago but probably now see its relevance. Under Modi, the government has silenced critics, whether they’re from academia or the press. An emphasis on democracy versus authoritarianism is much-needed and puts forward a clear choice before voters. There’s an exclusive segment dedicated to religious and linguistic minorities. The promises to establish Village Councils and Autonomous District Councils can help rectify regional governance imbalances.

The current GST landscape is something several states aren’t happy with. The Congress’ plan to replace it with a single, moderate rate would make states happy, with the commitment to end the “cess” system that has denied them their rightful share in GST revenues. Also finding space in the manifesto are senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a positive, progressive and necessary roadmap for India’s future.

COUNTERVIEW: A document of far-fetched promises

While headlines about manifestos can be hyperbolic one way or another, it’s important to look at the details. While some may call several proposals interesting, they’re mostly impractical. Take the apprenticeship initiative. While criticising the government for not creating enough jobs, can such a programme outperform the current skilling initiatives?

The promise of a constitutional amendment to raise the 50% cap on reservations for SC, ST, and other backward classes is unwise. Parties are reluctant to think beyond reservation quotas, which will only create more dissatisfaction among communities. The ₹1 lakh cash transfer is pure populism that’s unlikely to succeed. Even as Chief Minister, Modi resisted electoral pressures to play the populist game that would’ve obviously been fiscally irresponsible.

Its promise to implement an MSP would cost the government at least ₹10 lakh crore annually. On the caste census, the BJP has wisely stayed away from caste-driven politics, focussing on governance that identifies beneficiaries across the spectrum, while the Congress dives head first. Ultimately, irrespective of how the Congress manifesto is seen and perceived, it needs to be sold to the public. That’s something the party has struggled with and why it finds itself in the position it’s in now. It doesn’t seem like the manifesto could change that.

Reference Links:

  • Promises That Matter to Indian Democracy: A Study of Election Manifestos Since 1952 – Centre for Policy Research
  • Manifesto Tales in India – Fair Observer
  • Congress Manifesto 2024 Highlights: What are the key promises? – The Indian Express
  • Congress Manifesto: A New Vision – NDTV
  • Congress Party Manifesto Draws a Roadmap to an India Free From Fear – The Wire
  • PM Modi attacks Congress manifesto amid shadow of 1946 Nehru-Liaquat legacy – India Today
  • Decoding the Points and Promises of Congress Manifesto – News18
  • What Congress poll manifesto signals – Deccan Herald

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) The Congress manifesto is good.

b) The Congress manifesto is bad.


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