The BJP leadership questioned the financial viability of the promises made by the Congress and termed the manifesto as unimplementable and dangerous.
The Congress, on its part, defended the electoral promises and argued that a growing economy will provide resources for welfare of socially and financially weaker sections. Party leaders described the manifesto as the voice of the people and pointed out that wealth and welfare were the central themes.
Senior BJP leaders alleged that the Congress had taken the help of sympathizers of separatists and Maoists to draft its manifesto and the document will only strengthen those who are working against the country. The allegations against Congress comes in the wake of its decision to amend the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) if the party comes to power in the 2019 general elections.
“The Congress wants to remove the sedition law. The party which makes such promises should not get even a single vote. The move will protect terrorists and Maoists. Let this election be contested on the issue of nationalism. The Congress president has made unimplementable and dangerous promises and the country will not oblige him in the elections," said Union finance minister Arun Jaitley.
Former finance minister P. Chidambaram said that the ruling BJP was not ready to discuss the real issues but was instead making hyper nationalism an election issue.
“Let me say with humility that a wise and competent government by the Congress will be able to implement this. There is enough capacity in the economy to attempt ambitious programmes," said Chidambaram. In the past, too, it was asked where resources for schemes like food security, farm loan waiver and the rural employment guarantee scheme will come from, he said. “But money did come," said the former finance minister, adding that the goals set out in the Congress manifesto were “achievable".
Jaitley also asked how the Congress would raise resources for its minimum income guarantee scheme, NYAY. “The promises of the Congress cannot be believed. Former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had indulged in fiscal mismanagement and the country had faced a debt trap. India was on the verge of insolvency when Mammohan Singh became Prime Minister. The Congress now says NYAY will be funded by the Union government and state governments," he said.
Economists, however, said that irrespective of the political party in office, India needs to spend much more on health and education than it currently spends or is promised by political parties to achieve the sustainable development goals the country has committed to. Currently, India spends about 1.15% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health and around 2.7% of GDP on education. The Congress manifesto promises the right to universal healthcare and expands the scope of Right to Education till Class XII, and also makes an ambitious pitch of allocating 6% of GDP to education and increasing health care expenditure to 3%, both by 2023-24.
“Governance and the ability to implement schemes efficiently are as important as finance. Stepping up spending on health and education cannot solely be the central government’s responsibility either," said N.R. Bhanumurthy, professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, a think tank.
Chidambaram also said that it was feasible to have one standard rate of goods and services tax (GST).