Lok Sabha: Sonia Gandhi to release Congress manifesto on March 21

New Delhi, March 15: Congress President Sonia Gandhi will release the party's manifesto on March 21 for Lok Sabha polls which is expected to promise some new right-based laws for health and employment besides specific pronouncements for employment generation and focus on manufacturing sector.

"Our manifesto is nearing finality. We will release it on March 21," said a senior Union minister, who is part of the team drafting the party manifesto.

His remarks a came a day after the party's manifesto committee, headed by A K Antony, met in New Delhi to give final touches to the exercise.

The party's manifesto committee recently gave final touches to the exercise

Sources said that a meeting of the committee on March 16 will okay the final draft of the manifesto, which has been prepared after "exhaustive consultations" with different stakeholders through various mediums including direct interaction of a number of groups with party Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

Besides Antony, other members of the panel are P Chidambaram, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Anand Sharma, Salman Khurshid, Sandeep Dikshit, Ajit Jogi, Renuka Chowdhary, P L Punia, Mohan Gopal, Jairam Ramesh and Digvijay Singh.

With the party making its right-based legislations like MGNREGA, Food Security and RTI its key campaign themes, the Congress is expected to extend this health and employment sectors as well in its poll document for the polls, which seems to be a difficult challenge for it this time.

With the issue of women security being a major issue for some, which was propelled into limelight by the December 16, 2012 gang-rape case, the party has received a number of suggestions like making a provision for at least six women police stations in all districts.

There is another recommendation to provide 20 per cent reservation in police and judiciary for women. Mahila Congress led by party spokesperson Shobha Oza has already submitted a set of recommendations.

The party is also considering bringing into force certain type of affirmative action in the private sector given the fact that government jobs are drying up in the post liberalisation period.

The Scheduled Castes Cell of the AICC headed by Rahul's close aide K Raju is learnt to have made a strong pitch for a legislation to have a mandatory quota for the SCs/STs in the private sector.

Party General Secretary Mukul Wasnik has also said that Congress will have to take some decisive action into this issue if the private sector does not carry out the affirmative action on its own.

With unemployment a key concern amid the slowdown of economy, the party's poll document is likely to unveil Congress' intent to create 100 million new jobs for the youth by 2020.

Rahul's push to create some kind of minimum financial security to 70 crore people falling in the layer between the middle class and the below poverty line will also find some concrete formulation in the party's poll document.

There is a view in the party that this segment comprising artisans and lower income professional groups, domestic and migrant workers, could become the party's support base at a time when the urban middle class appears to have tilted towards BJP.

Party sources have indicated that Congress would have a sub-manifesto for different sections of society.

A good part of the manifesto will be about the measures to fight corruption as well as legal and judicial reforms.

It deals specifically with topics like job creation and skill development, healthcare, agriculture, farmer welfare, rural development, Housing, empowering weaker sections, women's empowerment, urban development, transport, innovative information and communication technology and e-governance.

Besides the manifesto will also speak on issues of internal security, foreign policy, defence, environment, minority empowerment, education reforms, giving a fillip to industry and trade and a comprehensive youth policy.

While the National Rural Health Mission is an ambitious programme to reach out to the rural poor, this time Congress plans to give a legal backing to seek health services to common man across the country.

Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's inputs had been sought to prepare a comprehensive guaranteed health service for all citizens at a time when private medicare has become expensive and public hospitals are overcrowded.

With the country witnessing growing urbanisation, the manifesto is also likely to promise certain basic minimum civic facilities to all citizens.

AAP had come to power in Delhi riding among other factors on promises of certain quota of free drinking water and subsidised electricity rates.

Besides from the members, the party has also received feedback about issues to be included in the manifesto from various stakeholders during the interactions the Congress Vice President held with them.

Rahul has been telling partymen for quite some time that there is a need to involve people from grass roots in policy- making and inputs should also be taken from block Congress committees when the party finalises the manifesto.

This was one of the highlights of his speech during Congress' 'Chintan Shivir' held in Jaipur in January in 2013 when he was anointed the party's Vice-President.

At a rally in Alwar, Rajasthan, on October 23, Rahul had launched the party website on manifesto.


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