The Congress released its manifesto for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls on Monday, amid a show of strength by loyalists of Jyotiraditya Scindia, who heads the campaign committee.
Facing rebellion in several seats, the Congress has offered the creation of a Legislative Council to placate dissenters. The party has used the same tactic in neighbouring Chhattisgarh to fight dissatisfaction over naming of candidates. The party had promised the same in 1993, but did not grant it during the decade-long rule of the Digvijaya Singh regime.
The party has also promised to waive farm loans of up to Rs.51,000 taken from the State-run Bhoomi Vikas Bank or co-operative banks. In a direct attempt to win back landlords who voted for the BJP, the party has promised to withdraw all criminal cases against farmers who defaulted on electricity bills. Also, farmers have been promised free power for pumps of up to five horsepower. Farms have also been promised 12 hours of power supply a day without fluctuation. The peasant-and-power dream the Congress is selling attempts to take the wind out of the much-publicised Atal Jyoti Abhiyan of the BJP government which attempted to provide 24-hour, three-phase power to all rural households.
Mr. Scindia, the Union Minister of State for Power, said the Congress would supplement the State’s power usage by shoring up generation. “Ours is an ideology of progress and development for all... The problem today is that there is no capacity building in the power sector by M.P. There is no investment by the State which depends mainly on power supply from Central schemes and companies,” he said.
Another major sop targeted at young voters is an unemployment wage on the lines of what is offered in Haryana, where one can get Rs.100 to Rs.1,500 per month depending on qualifications. The dole and the promise of laptops for distinction holders in class 12 exams and college and varsity toppers seems to be a leaf out of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s populism reader. The party has also promised 10 lakh dwellings, free single-lamp power connections and, 35 kg of free groceries under the Public Distribution System for families living below the poverty line.
In order to woo the two-lakh-odd temporary government staff, the Congress plans to bring their wages on a par with regular employees. It has also promised two lakh government jobs for educated youth, half of which will be reserved for women.
Tribals and minorities have been promised what the law offers — development incentives based on the Sachar Committee recommendations and settlement of claims under the Forest Rights Act. Value Added Tax on petrol, diesel and domestic cooking gas will be reduced and brought in concert with that of neighbouring States. The number of subsidised gas cylinders would be increased from nine to 12 per household per year, and the surplus subsidy would be borne by the State exchequer.
Suresh Pachouri, who headed the manifesto committee, dubbed it a “manifesto for weaker sections and farmers,” he said. “We promised a transparent corruption free regime.”
BJP State president Narendra Tomar condemned the manifesto as falsehood. “This budget bears the image of the Prime Minister and myopic Rahul Gandhi... The Congress has no leader in MP with the courage to implement such a manifesto.”