In a largely populist manifesto released on Sunday, the Rajasthan Congress has promised five-per-cent reservation to the Gujjar community, announced sops for all sections of society and emphasised an intention to uphold “zero discretion, zero corruption and zero harassment”. Special Backward Class communities such as the Raika, Banjara and Gaadiya Lohar too have been included among beneficiaries of the reservation.Ostensibly with an eye on capturing the votes of the Meo Muslim community, disgruntled in the wake of the Gopalgarh riots, the Congress has claimed it will streamline the Mewat Development Board and promised the community “all facilities available to scheduled tribes”. The party has promised 35 kg of wheat free-of-charge to all households that don’t pay income tax; State-sponsored pilgrimage to senior citizen couples of any religion; half-a-million jobs to the State’s youth; and concessional plots to artisans and rehabilitation pension of Rs.1,500 for three years to unemployed widows belonging to the Economically Backward Class.
On the education front, the party has promised a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh for meritorious dalit students at the secondary level and separate hostels for students belonging to minority communities.
The sops for farmers include subsidised power, strengthening of the procurement system through optimum minimum support price, loans for purchase of modern equipment, promotion of distribution and export of locally-grown horticultural products, development of animal husbandry and dairy as a viable alternative to agriculture for the youth.
“Last time when we came to power, the first thing we did was to get our manifesto approved by the Cabinet and we worked on its principals for the last five years,” said Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, releasing the manifesto at the Pradesh Congress Committee headquarters here on Sunday.
Mr. Gehlot was flanked by senior Congress leader and CWC member C.P. Joshi, State election in-charge Gurudas Kamat and State Congress president Chandrabhan among others.
Reflecting on the Congress’ five-year rule, Mr. Gehlot highlighted astute financial management, higher education development, agricultural development and power generation.
Mr. Gehlot also promised a Right to Health Act if the party came back to power in the State. However, this point was missing in the manifesto.
The Congress’ defeat in the 2003 elections was often attributed to the discontent among of government employees, among other things. In light of this, the party has announced specific sops to government employees in the form of a wider medical-care net and a time-scale-based promotion policy.
An eyewash: BJP
The BJP termed the Congress manifesto “an eyewash” and said the party had not kept its promises during the last five years.
“The Congress has betrayed the people on all fronts including education, power to farmers and clean governance,” said BJP leader Omkar Singh Lakhawat.
Responding to the criticism, Mr. Gehlot said: “The Opposition says we have announced all our welfare schemes in the election year... But no government can formulate and implement such massive schemes in one year... The fact is that the Opposition was absent for the last four-and-a-half years and so is seeing the schemes only this year,” said Mr. Gehlot.
To simplify land and revenue matters, the party has promised the setting up of a new service cadre of Rajasthan Revenue Service and digitisation of all revenue and land records by 2015.
With regard to mineral exploration, the manifesto promises to attach a condition that the manufacturing unit of the end-product of any mineral mine in the State would have to be set up within the State.
There are promises of setting up District Education Zones in all district headquarters, free computer education to any citizen who wants to learn, the setting up of a WiFi network at all divisional headquarters, formulation of a State child policy, formation of a State Highways Authority, provision of Reverse-Osmosis-filtered water to all fluoride-affected habitations over the next five years, Census and social audit of the State’s tree cover and simplification of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.
Besides, the Congress’ manifesto has made a few significant promises on clean energy development. These include the formulation of a dedicated CNG policy, the expansion of solar power generation capacity from 515 MW to 4,115 MW over the next five years and the development of all divisional headquarters as solar-cities through rooftop power generation.
The Congress also plans to invite leading global universities to establish chapters in the State.
For journalists, the party has announced three specific sops — setting up of a journalist welfare board, land allotment to all registered journalist unions and provision of pension to widows of journalists.