Congress manifesto gives fillip to BJP 's nationalism plank
New Delhi, April 3: The Congress is upbeat after the release of its election manifesto on Tuesday. The Congress leaders believe that the party has covered almost all the possible points to beckon voters in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi released party manifesto titled 'Hum Nibhayenge' (We will deliver) here in the presence of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior leader P Chidambaram and others.
The 55-page document makes a slew of promises, including giving Rs. 72,000 each to five crore poor families yearly, under the Nyuntam Aay Yojna (Nyay) scheme, filling up 22 lakh government vacancies, bringing a separate budget for farmers and fixing a single moderate Good and Services Tax (GST) rate.
The manifesto committee, which was chaired by P. Chidambaram, was divided into 20 different subgroups for different issues like economy, agriculture, education and industry, etcetera.
The party held 121 consultations in 24 states and three Union Territories at over 60 locations, non-resident Indian (NRIs) from 12 countries were consulted, and five sessions with farmers, teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and economists were held.
A Congress source tells OneIndia that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will now be under pressure after the Congress released its manifesto, which has left no scope for other parties to match it.
However, a section within the Congress is concerned that the party has inadvertently provided the BJP its favourite tool called 'nationalism'.
Talking about Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress manifesto says, "We also acknowledge the unique history of the State and the unique circumstances under which the State acceded to India that led to the inclusion of Article 370 in the Constitution of India. Nothing will be done or allowed to change the Constitutional position."
It is notable that the demand of abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A got momentum in the country during the last five years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rule.
J&K derives its special status from two key constitutional provisions- Article 370 and Article 35A.
The BJP has been holding first Congress prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru responsible for Kashmir issue by granting special status to J&K under Article 370.
Introduced in 1954 by a Presidential Order, the Article 35A has a provision under which the President of India can make certain "exceptions and modifications" for the benefit of 'State subjects' of J&K.
The Article 35A is already challenged in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was unconstitutionally added to the Constitution as the President is not empowered to add or change existing provisions of the Constitution without the approval of the Parliament. In the case of Article 35A, the provision was added without getting a nod from the Parliament.
The Congress manifesto also promises to review the deployment of armed forces, move more troops to the border to stop infiltration completely, reduce the presence of the Army and Central Armed Paramilitary Forces (CAPFs) in the Kashmir Valley, and entrust more responsibility to the J&K police for maintaining law and order.
There has been a demand in Kashmir Valley to reduce the footprints of the armed forces from civilian areas.
The manifesto also says the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act [AFSPA] and the Disturbed Areas Act in J&K will be reviewed.
"Suitable changes will be made in the text of the laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights."
The demand to dilute the AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act is decades old in Kashmir but even the Congress-led UPA government after 2004 till 2014 could not muster the courage to do it.
As soon as the Congress released its manifesto, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched a scathing attack on the grand-old party by saying that it appears that some important points related to J&K were drafted by party chief Rahul Gandhi's friends in 'Tukde Tukde' gang.
He was referring to Rahul Gandhi's visit to Jawaharlal Nehru University in solidarity with protesting students against the arrest of the student union leader Kanahiya Kumar, who was nabbed after slogans like Bharat Tere Tukdey Hongey (India will be broken into different parts) were allegedly raised on the campus.
Jaitley dubbed the manifesto as "dangerous and unimplementable", saying it was aimed at "balkanisation" of India.
"The manifesto says Section 124-A will be removed from IPC, which means committing treason is no longer a crime. The party that makes such announcements is not entitled to a single vote," he said.
Congress insiders, who are concerned after Jaitley's attack, admit that the party has given an issue to the BJP which may diminish other highlights of the manifesto.
"The BJP under Prime Minister Modi is going in the elections mainly on the issue of nationalism, a feeling that is high among the majority of Indians after the Pulwama attack and military standoff between India and Pakistan. The party has given a fillip to the BJP's nationalism. Jaitley has hinted how the BJP is going to attack the Congress during the Lok Sabha elections,"says a party insider.
"Unfortunately the BJP understands a fact better than the Congress is that Kashmir is a very sensitive issue for the common Indians. It will be foolish to deny a fact that the killing of top terrorists in Kashmir under Modi rule has sent a sense of satisfaction among Indians who were early depressed due to the hegemony of terrorists in the Kashmir Valley," adds the insider.
It seems the Congress has made promises regarding J&K considering the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and assembly elections in the state without applying mind how they could be used against the party in rest of India.