Congress unveils manifesto, focuses on war on poverty

New Delhi: Congress leaders A. K. Antony, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh release the party's manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in New Delhi, on April 2, 2019.

New Delhi,  Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday promised to provide Rs 72,000 a year to the poorest families and fill 22 lakh government vacancies if his party won the Lok Sabha battle and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of wrecking the economy.

Unveiling the Congress manifesto, the Congress President also challenged Modi, who he said was scared, to engage in a debate with him on issues such as corruption, foreign policy and national security.

“The five main themes of our manifesto (are) NYAY scheme… Garibi par waar, 72,000 (war on poverty with Rs 72,000 cash support), employment to youth by filling 22 lakh government vacancies and employment to 10 lakh youth in gram panchayats, guaranteeing jobs for 150 days under MGNREGA instead of 100 days, 6 per cent GDP will be used in education and no permission required for starting a new business(for three years),” he said after releasing the party manifesto here.

Gandhi promised to present a separate budget for the farmers on the lines of the now discarded railway budget and said if his party was voted to power, farmers who fail to return bank loans will no more face criminal but only civil cases.

Accusing the Prime Minister of wrecking the economy, Gandhi said that there was an “economic emergency” in the country.

Blaming demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for what he said was an economic mess, Gandhi said his party was determined to set right the situation.

To repeated questions, Gandhi said the narrative for the Lok Sabha election had already been set — and it was all about economic issues and misery.

Hitting out at the Prime Minister, Gandhi said that Modi made fun of the MGNREGA scheme dubbing it bogus and useless.

“Today everyone knows how much it helped the country. So now we want to guarantee jobs for 150 days, instead of 100 days, under the scheme.”

Gandhi said the Congress government will allow anyone to start business without permits or clearances with tax holiday for the first three years to encourage entrepreneurship and create thousands of jobs across the country.

The Congress President said that he had told the members of the Manifesto Committee a year ago that it should not be drafted in closed rooms but should reflect the wishes of the people of India.

“I also said that whatever is going to be put in the manifesto has to be truthful. I do not want a single thing in the manifesto that is a lie because we have been hearing a large number of lies spoken every day by our Prime Minister,” he said.

Responding on BJP’s criticism that the NYAY scheme was “not workable”, he said: “I agree it is not doable for the BJP. But it is doable for the Congress.”

Asked why he was also being fielded by his party from Wayanad in Kerala apart from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Gandhi said: “South India feels hostility from Narendra Modi… They feel they have not been included in decision making.”

He said his candidature would send out a message that “we are with you, I am with you.”

When a journalist queried about lack of alliances in some states, Gandhi said the Congress had teamed up with allies in Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir.

“We have alliances across the country. I don’t know which newspapers you are reading.”

Asked if the journalists were interacting with “a future Prime Minister”, he retorted: “Ask the people this question.”