New Delhi: The Congress party on Monday unveiled a ‘something for everybody’ manifesto for the Punjab assembly elections, targeting in particular the state’s youth, women and farmers.
The manifesto included loan waivers and free power for farmers, a job for every household, unemployment benefit, smartphones for youth, free education for girls, free textbooks for all and tackling the drug problem within four weeks of being elected.
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The Congress, which has been out of power in Punjab for a decade, is running a high-decibel campaign under former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh in the run-up to the 4 February polls. The manifesto was released by former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Capt. Singh in the national capital, while the party held press conferences across five cities in Punjab to publicize the event.
“The challenge before Punjab is to rise above all this din and recognize that the people of Punjab need a better tomorrow. This election manifesto is a forward looking visionary document, which promises the people that we will undo the damage done to the Punjab economy by the state government in the last 10 years," Manmohan Singh said while releasing the manifesto.
The Congress is in a three-cornered contest, with the incumbent Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance on the one hand and key challenger Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party on the other. While releasing the manifesto, Amarinder Singh, known as Captain, said if voted to power, a Congress government would generate 2.5 million jobs within the next five years, have a new industrial policy within 90 days and introduce total transparency in governance.
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With an eye on Dalits, who account for nearly one-third of the state population, the party has promised free houses to the homeless, one job in every family, extending reservations to contractual and outsourced appointments, free education till graduation and 30% reservation for land leasing and plot allotment.
Political analysts feel the most striking feature of the manifesto is the focus on youth and women.
“Women and youth voters are a key focus for Congress. Anti-Akali youth could vote in favour of AAP, and Congress foresees serious damage from that. There are several announcements for women, too, as they could end up being a key support base for Congress," said Ashutosh Kumar, a professor in the department of political science at Panjab University.
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“Releasing manifestos ahead of polls has been a very positive trend specially in Punjab because it moves the election discourse from religion and ethnicity to announcements where political parties try to connect with all sections of the society," he added.
Meanwhile, Delhi chief minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal mocked the Congress on Twitter for releasing the manifesto in Delhi, saying Punjab Congress leaders were camped in Delhi for election tickets and that ‘Delhi (is) running Punjab Congress’.