Contest with BJP is clash of two competing visions: Congress(Roundup)

March 24th, 2009 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) Attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its divisive approach towards terrorism, the Congress Tuesday unveiled its election manifesto that made a slew of populist promises like affirmative action in the private sector, a right to food act, and an economic policy focussing on inclusive growth, middle path and low inflation.
Forcefully repudiating the BJP’s charge of being soft on terror, the Congress, which leads the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), claimed in the manifesto that it was “the only party” that could deal with the scourge of terrorism “decisively and squarely” without weakening the India’s social fabric.

“The Indian National Congress seeks a fresh mandate on the basis of its core values and ideology - secularism, nationalism, social justice, and economic growth for all, especially for the aad aadmi (common man),” the manifesto said.

It claimed that Pakistan’s admission of the role of its citizens in the Mumbai terror spree was a victory of the party’s “patient but forceful diplomacy”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters after the release of the manifesto that: “There was justified anger, and we also knew that this act was perpetrated by actors who came from Pakistan. We expect the government of Pakistan to bring all the culprits to book.”

“It is in this context that we made important diplomatic efforts. Fortunately, those efforts have succeeded. For the first time, Pakistan has admitted that its own citizens have been involved in the terrorist act,” the prime minister said.

The election manifesto was released here by its chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The main opposition BJP debunked the manifesto, saying did not have anything new to offer.

“This is a sorry state of affairs that the ruling party cannot give its report card. There is no new promise; instead they have tried to divert attention from their failures by criticising leader of the opposition (L.K. Advani) and Varun (Gandhi),” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

The document, which promised 25 kg wheat or rice at Rs. 3 a month for below poverty line families, stated: “The Indian National Congress will put in place measures to ensure that the momentum of growth is maintained.”

“The focus of the new measures will be to stimulate demand in the domestic economy and to ensure that there is more purchasing power in the hands of the people and more liquidity in the hands of companies.”

The party’s manifesto was unstinting in its condemnation of what it called the BJP’s “muscular” foreign policy and the politics of religious polarisation.

“Terrorism can be fought only by a united people, not by a people divided by religion. Religious polarisation that is intrinsic to the BJP severely erodes our capacity to combat terrorism,” the party said.

The manifesto said that the party had always been the “bulwark against the four ‘isms’ that threaten to tear India apart — communalism of all kinds, linguistic chauvinism, regional parochialism and casteism”.

“The BJP practices the politics of divisiveness and discord. Instinctively, the Congress unites, while the BJP divides,” it added.

It said the difference between the Congress and the BJP was in essence “a clash between two competing visions of Indian nationalism, between two competing visions of what India should be.”

“The country knows the heavy price that was paid for such a ‘muscular’ foreign policy - stupor in Kargil, surrender in Kandahar and stalemate in Operation Parakram,” the manifesto stated.

The Congress also took on the Left parties challenging their secular credentials and attacking it for being the prime mover of the newly Third Front, who it termed as a conglomerate of “opportunistic” players without any programmes.

Dwelling on economic policies, the party’s manifesto said “balance, or the middle path” had always been the “hallmark” of its policies and added it would continue to follow this path, striking a balance between globalisation and indigenous development, the needs of urban and rural India, regulation and entrepreneurship, organised and unorganised sector, and new and traditional industries.

“This balance is needed now more than ever,” it added. The manifesto said that the party was aware of the global economic crisis caused by failure of financial markets in USA but said that Indian economy had shown considerable resilience as an outcome of the policies of successive Congress governments.

During the party’s rule, the rate of economic growth was 8.5 percent compared to 5.8 percent in the previous BJP-led government, it said.

The party also said that it was deeply committed to pursuing affirmative action for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in private sector, and that a national debate had already been initiated on this issue.

“It also pledges to carve out a reservation for the economically weaker sections of all communities without prejudice to existing reservations for the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward castes.”

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