SocietyPolitics Gauging The Opposition’s Assurances: A Look Back Into Congress’ 2019 Manifesto

Gauging The Opposition’s Assurances: A Look Back Into Congress’ 2019 Manifesto

What we will have in our sights, ahead of the upcoming elections, is gauging if promises made by the Congress continue to be aligned with what they stand for today

The upcoming 2024 general election presents itself as seminal as it marks the possibility of a third consecutive term under BJP rule. Both BJP and the Congress-led opposition parties have, especially over the past few months, worked tirelessly to convince the people that they were the right choice for India.

Between Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and the formation of the new political tent INDIA, the Indian National Congress (INC) has fervently pre-campaigned to present itself as a ray of hope at a time when the root of democracy in our nation seems to be growing weak.

As the opposition party, INC stands the advantage of remaining to be judged by promises made rather than actions taken. Thus, what we will have in our sights, ahead of the upcoming elections, is gauging if promises made by the party continue to be aligned with what they stand for today. 

Against BJP: Opposition’s selling point

Only a few months before polling begins and in wait for the release of updated election manifestos, Congress’ 2019 manifesto stands as citizens’ window into deciphering them as the right fit, and more importantly the nation’s saving grace.

Source: Economic Times

Congress itself has not been shy of presenting itself as a party of ‘saving grace.’ Much if not all of its promises are presented starkly in opposition to the Modi government. Even back during the 2019 elections, when incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi was up for just his second term, Congress pledged to undo the damage done by BJP rule elected during the 2014 elections. While BJP’s main theme in their self-advertisement is developing Bharat (and of Hindutva), Congress is selling its historic lineage and legacy which they describe to be in the best interest of the country. 

The manifesto has a wide-ranging set of pledges that range across six categories. Under ‘Kaam‘ they promise employment and growth, under ‘Daam‘ a better economy, under ‘Shaan‘ internal and external security, under ‘Sushasan‘ better governance, minority rights under ‘Swabhiman‘ and lastly, better standard of living under ‘Samman.’ A key portion of their pledges also strongly present a different ideological standpoint from what the country has seen and experienced in the last ten years.

Congress on matters of faith and caste

Between the implementation of CAA NRC and the recent inauguration of Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir, India has seen a threat not only to its core secular nature but also to the safety of Muslims & other religious minorities on a large scale. Congress has made its stance clear on this matter through the rejection of the invite to attend the inauguration, affirming that matters of religion should not be endorsed by the state. 

While the manifesto does not dive deep into the protection of religious rights, it does address the curbing of communal violence, both concerning internal security & civil administration. However, there is no detailed action plan for the same and it remains covered only in broad language. The same goes for caste-based violence & discrimination, which remains as rampant as ever. They aim to address any such violence with the help of the police force, holding district administration accountable, which has over the years proved itself to be ineffective. With regard to affirmative action, INC proposes to implement an equal opportunities commission, followed by other such promises that exist, again, in broad language. 

On matters of gender and the queer community

Heralding Indira Gandhi, INC calls themselves a party that “has been at the forefront of the struggle for women’s rights, equality and empowerment.” Their section on women’s empowerment and gender justice is quite fleshed out, containing a 13-point action plan– one of which was the reservation of 33 per cent seats for women in the Lok Sabha, passed last year. Their approach toward women’s development stands on par with BJP’s comparable set of promises and thus, does not stand out.

Source: PTI

As for queer and Trans rights, they do stand with the community (and offer more than the BJP does) however their offerings remain quite basic, without going too deep into structural, legislative support. They aim to uphold the equality & protection of the queer community and also propose to repel the much objected Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019– implementing instead a new bill that would be drafted in consultation with community members. There is no mention, in the manifesto, of their stance on or support of marriage equality, which has, in recent years, become a key demand.

CPI (M) currently stands as the only party in the country which has officially supported marriage equality. Even outside the manifesto itself, INC remains undecided on this issue, with no fixed stance taken yet.  

On censorship and press freedom

With incidents such as the NewsClick raid and journalists going in & out of jails en masse under the guise of UAPA, press freedom has taken a significant fall in the country, ranking India at 161 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. INC holds strong in its opposition to this and has done so since even during the last election. Their manifesto intends to entrust self-regulation of media with minimal censorship. It also mentions specific & guided amendments to acts such as the Press Council of India Act, 1979 and the Cinematograph Act, 1927 to prevent, if elected, much of the damage done– in the name of nationalism– during the Modi years.

Source: Al Jazeera

Additionally, they also promise to pass a law to help preserve freedom of the Internet, while curbing unlawful shutdowns of the same. Such reforms are critically needed by the country, but there is still, at the moment, no guarantee of their fruition. 

What to expect from the Congress’ 2024 Manifesto?

Holding a staggering minority in both the upper & lower houses, INC currently presents itself to Indian votes with ten years of promises that, circumstantially, haven’t borne fruit. Given that, voters will have to decide if they are willing to take a chance on them to see a different future for the country– making their 2024 manifesto more important than ever and speculations have begun to be formed for what INC’s new manifesto might look like.

In January, they launched a website, called Awaaz Bharat Ki to crowdsource ideas for it, driving the idea of a people’s manifesto.” As of now, the forthcoming manifesto plans to include a guarantee on minimum support price for farmers & the definitive provision of a caste census; it will be drafted by a committee headed by Congress leader P Chidambaram. 

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