Congress manifesto for General Elections 2009

On March 24, Congress President Sonia Gandhi
released the party manifesto in New Delhi. Security, respect and
prosperity of all citizens would sbe the party’s endeavour, she said.
The UPA Chairperson was accompanied by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukhrejee. Sonia projected Manmohan Singh
as the next prime minister of the country saying that there could be
many candidates for the post but no one matched up to him. Following is
the full text of the Indian National Congress’s Lok Sabha Elections 2009 manifesto

Aam Admi Ke Badhte Kadam
Har Kadam Par Bharat Buland

I. Preface

Elections to the 15th Lok Sabha are to be held shortly.

This is the time for you to choose your government at the Centre.

The
Indian National Congress respectfully seeks a renewed mandate from the
people. We pledge to continue our work to ensure a life of security,
dignity and prosperity for every citizen.

The
Indian National Congress seeks this mandate on the strength of the
performance of the Congress-led UPA government during 2004-09.

We made promises in our manifesto of 2004.

We have delivered on them in a very substantial measure.

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 aam admi.

We
seek a fresh mandate on the basis of our heritage, record of service
and vision of the future. We reaffirm our unflinching commitment to the
welfare of all our people, especially to the well-being of the weaker
sections of our society.

The
Indian National Congress is the only party that appeals to, and derives
its strength from, each and every section of our society.

The
Indian National Congress is the only party that believes that economic
growth and communal harmony, and economic growth and social justice,
are two sides of the same coin and must always go hand-in-hand.

The
Indian National Congress is the only party that combines experience and
youth, wisdom and exuberance, achievement and ambition.

II. Why Congress?

These are national elections.

While
there will be regional, state-level and local issues that are
important, these are elections for a government at the Centre, one that
will govern all of India in its many diversities and fulfill its
multitude of hopes and aspirations.

It
is only the Indian National Congress that is anchored in the larger
vision of India as a nation, while at the same time being sensitive to
regional and local sentiments.

It
is only the Indian National Congress that has demonstrated its
commitment to a strong Centre, to strong States, and to strong
panchayats and nagarpalikas. India’s political system must have space
for institutions at each of these three levels. Each has a vital and
specific role to play.

The Indian
National Congress is fighting these elections in alliance with
like-minded parties in some States. These parties share the progressive
vision and values of the Congress. Over the past five years, the Indian
National Congress has managed a coalition government at the Centre,
accommodating the views of its partners but without compromising on any
of the essential principles of nation-building.

Even
so, what India needs most today — what every Indian needs most today –
at the national level is a party with an All-India perspective and with
an All-India presence. The Indian National Congress is the only such
party.

The Indian National Congress
is the party that, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, led our
people into freedom from colonial rule. It is the party whose
leadership, by the admission of Dr. Ambedkar himself, made our
Constitution possible.

The Indian
National Congress is the party that, under the leadership of Jawaharlal
Nehru, established the foundations of the modern Indian nation-state
with its abiding commitment to parliamentary democracy, secularism,
economic development, and science and technology.

Learning
from experience at every step, the Indian National Congress is the
party that has responded creatively to the challenges of the times
through the establishment of a vast public sector manufacturing base in
the fifties; through bank nationalization and the Green and White
Revolutions spearheaded by Indira Gandhi in the late-sixties and
seventies; through prudent liberalization and the IT Revolution created
by Rajiv Gandhi in the eighties; bolder economic reforms in the
nineties; and unprecedented economic growth over the past five years.
It is the only party that is forward-looking, the only party that
believes a better future is the right of every Indian.

The
achievements of India since 1947 are the achievements of its people –
of its farmers and farm labour, its organized sector and unorganized
sector workers, its managers, its scientists and engineers, its
teachers, doctors and other professionals, its entrepreneurs and
businesspersons. It has been the privilege of the Indian National
Congress to have provided the political leadership that heralded these
accomplishments under the Prime Ministerships of Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal
Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Congress vs BJP: Secular, Liberal Nationalism vs Narrow Communalism

The
Indian National Congress has always been in the forefront of the battle
against those forces that seek to divide and fragment our society.

The
Indian National Congress has always been the bulwark against the four
“isms” that threaten to tear our country apart — communalism of all
kinds, linguistic chauvinism, regional parochialism and casteism.

At the national level, the BJP has sought to position itself as the main political rival of the Indian National Congress.

The
Indian National Congress rejects this presumptuous posturing since the
BJP is simply not present in large parts of our country.

Even so, the contest between the Indian National Congress and the BJP is not just a fight between two political parties.

It
is, in essence, a clash between two competing visions of Indian
nationalism, between two competing visions of what India should be.

The
Indian National Congress’s secular and liberal nationalism has an equal
place for each and every Indian. It is an inclusive vision. The BJP’s
narrow and communal nationalism denies equality and equal rights to
large sections of our people. It is an exclusionary doctrine.

The
Indian National Congress’s secular and liberal nationalism is founded
on a celebration of India’s many diversities. The BJP’s narrow and
communal nationalism rejects many of these diversities and seeks to
impose an artificial uniformity on our people.

The
Indian National Congress practices the politics of consensus and
cooperation. The BJP practices the politics of divisiveness and
discord. Instinctively, the Indian National Congress unites, while the
BJP divides.

Third Front – a recipe for chaos

There
is also the so-called Third Front, a grouping of opportunistic parties.
These parties have neither consistency nor clarity. They have neither
competence nor commitment. This Front, grounded in the politics of
convenience, is nothing but a platform for personal ambitions. It
speaks of “alternative polices” without spelling out what these
alternatives are. Parties of the Third Front do one thing when they are
in power and quite another when they are rejected by the people.

The
Left Parties, who are prime movers behind the so-called Third Front,
supported the Congress-led UPA government for over four years. They
attempted to exercise authority without taking on any responsibility.
At every step, they violated the discipline, restraint and sobriety so
very essential for running a coalition smoothly. At every step, the
Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh,
briefed them on all important issues. The Left Parties withdrew their
support on the issue of the civilian nuclear agreement even though it
had been negotiated and concluded on our own terms. They adamantly
refused to listen to reasoned arguments that convincingly demonstrated
that the agreement was in India’s supreme national interest.

The
Left Parties and their present partners pride themselves on being
secular. On the contrary, it may be recalled that they had actively
aligned with the BJP in the past. They are, in fact, responsible for
the electoral growth of the BJP.

As
past experience has shown, the Third Front is a recipe for political
instability. Lacking a natural national anchor, it is a recipe for
chaos, not cohesion.

Only a united India can fight terrorism

The integrity and security of India are paramount. Terrorism threatens many countries, including India.

Terrorism
knows no religion and it respects no political boundary. It is, as has
become painfully evident, not confined to any community or any
political persuasion. Its method is the mindless use of violence
directed at the innocent in the most cowardly manner.

Let it be very clear — terrorism must be fought relentlessly, intelligently and wisely, and without fear or favour.

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

It
is only the Indian National Congress that can deal with the scourge of
terrorism squarely and decisively but without weakening the delicate
strands that have, together, bound our society for centuries.

Dealing
with terrorism aided and abetted from across our borders does not
require a “muscular” foreign policy as advocated by the BJP. 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.

What India needs
is an intelligent and wise foreign policy, a foreign policy that is
rooted in our traditions, gives us strength through our unity and
common purpose, and radiates confidence.

After
the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, the Congress-led UPA government
mounted a forceful diplomatic campaign. It was this campaign that led
to Pakistan admitting, for the first time, that Pakistani citizens were
responsible for the attacks. That admission was a notable victory for
our well thought out foreign policy.

The Middle Path – the Congress’s way

Balance—or the middle path—has always been the hall-mark of the policies of the Indian National Congress.

As the world experiences a severe recession, it is this balance that is standing India in good stead.

It
is a balance between the public sector and the private sector, with an
important role assigned to cooperatives and self-help groups.

It is a balance between building a modern economy and imparting a new thrust to traditional industries.

It is a balance between promoting employment in the organized sector and protecting livelihoods in the unorganized sector.

It
is a balance between addressing the needs of urban India and improving
the quality of life and standard of living in our villages and towns.

It is a balance between taking advantage of globalization and ensuring that these benefits flow to local communities.

It
is a balance between regulation by the government and unleashing the
creative spirits of our entrepreneurs and professionals.

It
is only the Indian National Congress that cherishes and practices this
balance in all spheres of our national life including in the conduct of
economic and foreign policy.

This balance is needed now more than ever.

III. Achievements of the Congress-led UPA Government

The tireless campaign of Smt. Sonia Gandhi,
President of the Indian National Congress resulted in its return to the
14th Lok Sabha as the single largest party after eight years in the
Opposition. She took the initiative to give shape to the United
Progressive Alliance (UPA) comprising of the Indian National Congress,
its pre-poll allies and supporting like-minded parties. As chairperson
of the UPA, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, along with Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, negotiated a Common Minimum Programme that became the basis of governance of the coalition.

The
May 2004 mandate was for a government that would be responsive to the
concerns of the aam admi and to the needs of the poor, the deprived and
the disadvantaged.

This has been achieved in very substantial measure.

The
May 2004 mandate was for a government that would accelerate economic
growth but with a focus always on livelihoods and jobs, on inclusive
growth and on social justice.

This has been achieved in very substantial measure.

The
May 2004 mandate was for a government that would take forward the
agenda of empowerment of the weaker sections of society in a forthright
manner with emphasis on education.

This has been achieved in substantial measure.

The
May 2004 mandate was for a government that would bridge all divides,
that would bring all sections of society together, and give them voice.

This has been achieved in substantial measure.

We let the record speak for itself.

The Major Accomplishments: 2004-2009

The
accomplishments of the Congress-led UPA government since May 2004 have
been tangible and visible. The manifesto of the Indian National
Congress for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections provided the foundation for
the National Common Minimum Programme that formed the basis of
governance during the past five years. The pledges made in this
manifesto have been translated into reality by the Congress-led UPA
government.

  • It
    has restored secular and Constitutional values in governance. It has
    also made administration markedly more transparent. The Right to
    Information Act, 2005 is a historic legislation. It is enabling lakhs
    of our citizens in villages, towns and cities to demand responsiveness
    and accountability from public officials and government at all levels.

  • It
    has enacted the path-breaking National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
    which is being implemented in all districts to provide 100 days of
    legally guaranteed employment to each rural household seeking
    employment in public works programmes. Not only has livelihood security
    been provided to many lakh poor rural families but durable community
    assets have also been created.

  • It
    has started and achieved considerable progress on the ambitious Bharat
    Nirman programme to transform rural India by expanding and providing
    irrigation, all-weather roads, houses for the poor, drinking water,
    electricity for all poor families and phone connectivity in all
    villages.

  • It
    has brought comfort and hope to crores of our farmers and their
    families by (i) increasing the MSP and procurement prices; (ii) by
    waiving loans to the tune of Rs 65,000 crores; (iii) by increasing
    three-fold credit from banks and reducing interest rates on crop loans;
    and (iv) by extending irrigation facilities.

  • It
    has launched the National Rural Health Mission which has already made a
    positive impact by improving the quality and accessibility of primary
    health care in villages. More children are now being delivered under
    the care of trained health professionals. Around six and a half lakh
    women have been trained and posted as accredited social health
    activists (ASHAs).

  • It
    has significantly empowered the weaker sections of society by (i)
    giving scheduled tribes and traditional forest dwellers rights over
    land they cultivate in forest areas; (ii) by providing reservations for
    OBC students in all professional institutions; (iii) by passing a new
    law to protect women from domestic violence; (iv) by giving women equal
    rights to inherit property; and (v) by enhancing hugely the
    scholarships for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities and
    OBCs to pursue college and university education.

  • It
    has imparted a new momentum to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan for primary
    education. It has also introduced a cooked mid-day meal scheme in all
    primary schools that feeds 15 crore children every day. At the same
    time, it has for the first time in five decades, increased the number
    of colleges, universities, and institutes of technology, management and
    information technology. The investment in higher education in the XIth
    Five Year Plan (2007-08 to 2011-12) will witness a huge increase – five
    times the investment in the previous five years.

  • It
    has delivered five years of record economic growth. This has enabled an
    unprecedented step-up in government spending particularly on (i)
    education and health; (ii) on agriculture and rural development; (iii)
    infrastructure like power and railways; and (iv) municipal services in
    towns and cities. This economic growth has enabled the introduction of
    the Aam Admi Bima Yojana (life insurance cover) for one and a half
    crore landless households, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (medical
    insurance cover) for six crore unorganized sector workers living below
    the poverty line and the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension scheme
    for elder citizens over 65 years of age and living below the poverty
    line.

  • It
    has initiated the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
    (JNNURM) with an outlay of Rs.1 lakh crore in 63 cities for upgrading
    infrastructure and for providing basic services to the urban poor. Work
    amounting to over Rs.42,000 crore is in progress covering areas like
    water supply, sanitation and urban transport. 14 lakh houses for the
    poor are under construction. Governance reforms under JNNURM has
    increased the availability of housing in the 63 cities. A major
    programme for improving power supply in 1,420 towns and cities has also
    begun.

  • It
    has ensured that all States in the country received financial resources
    from the Centre for development schemes and programmes at a scale never
    known before. Unlike the NDA’s record during 1999-2004, no State has
    faced discrimination in the matter of funds from the Central
    Government. Sensitive States of the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir
    have benefited enormously and are seeing development activities on a
    very large scale. For the first time, the Backward Regions Grant Fund
    with an annual allocation of over Rs 5000 crores for 250 of the poorest
    districts is being implemented through panchayats.

  • It
    has earned for India a new respect and stature internationally. Civil
    nuclear agreements have been entered into with many countries entirely
    on our terms. India has today a place of honour in every global forum.
    The sustained campaign led by the Congress President has resulted in
    the declaration of Gandhi Jayanti as International Day of Non-Violence
    by the United Nations.

  • It
    has considerably strengthened the country’s capacity and capability to
    deal with both external and internal security challenges. New
    battalions have been raised and new hubs for anti-terrorist forces
    created across the country. A new National Investigation Agency has
    also been established. Significant success has been recorded in the
    fight against insurgency in some northeastern States and J&K. The
    record turnout in the recent assembly polls in J&K by people
    braving calls of boycott and threats of violence is a tribute to their
    desire for peace and a vindication of the approach adopted by the
    Indian National Congress and the Prime Minister personally. The
    security forces have also successfully foiled the plans of Naxalites to
    expand their nefarious activities. We have raised our level of
    preparedness to meet any terrorist threat or attack.

  • V. The Way Forward

    The Indian National Congress says what it means and means what it says.

    The Indian National Congress promises what it can do and will do what it promises.

    The
    Indian National Congress is irrevocably committed to ensuring that
    government functions in the interest of the people for whom it exists
    and for whom it works.

    The Indian
    National Congress has always believed that the correct approach to
    governance is to address the daily concerns of the people and solve
    their problems. It is to be responsive and accountable to the needs of
    the people. It is that governance is a partnership between the electors
    and the elected and that the perceived gap between the people and those
    in power must be significantly narrowed.

    Dr Manmohan Singh
    as Prime Minister has led the country with dignity and firm resolve.
    His integrity, maturity and wisdom, together with his unique expertise
    and experience, makes him best qualified to lead the nation and handle
    the many challenges that India faces, both at home and abroad.

    Towards faster and more inclusive growth

    The
    Indian National Congress is fully aware that the world economy faces
    the worst crisis in 50 years. This crisis has been caused by a failure
    of financial markets in the USA and in other developed countries.
    However, the Indian economy has shown considerable resilience under the
    most adverse international circumstances. This is the outcome of the
    policies of successive Congress governments. This is the direct result
    of a vibrant public sector that is the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru,
    government ownership of banks that is the legacy of Indira Gandhi, and
    a strong private sector that matured and flowered during the tenure of
    Rajiv Gandhi and thereafter.

    The
    average rate of economic growth during the self-declared India Shining
    period of the BJP was just 5.8% per year, as compared to 8.5% during
    the five year tenure of the Congress-led UPA government. 2008-09 has
    proved to be a difficult year for growth, yet the Indian economy will
    grow at about 7%. That is why our immediate priority is to revive the
    economy and restore the high growth witnessed in the first four years
    of the Congress-led UPA Government.

    The
    Indian National Congress will put in place measures to ensure that the
    momentum of growth is maintained. Three stimulus packages have already
    been announced. Interest rates have been reduced. Credit flows to
    industry have been encouraged and assured. The impact of these policies
    will be felt in the coming weeks and months.

    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. Public
    investment in agriculture and infrastructure, which has increased
    appreciably over the past five years, will be stepped up further.
    Within 45 days of forming the new Government, the Indian National
    Congress will present the regular Budget for the year 2009-10 with the
    basic objective of returning to the path of faster and more inclusive
    growth, which is so essential for fulfilling all our social and
    economic objectives.

    In keeping with
    the promises made in our 2004 Manifesto, the Congress-led UPA
    government had set up a number of very important commissions including
    the Administrative Reforms Commission, the National Commission on
    Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, the National Farmers Commission,
    the National Knowledge Commission and the National Manufacturing
    Competitiveness Council. Their valuable recommendations will be taken
    up for implementation in a systematic manner and without any delay.

    The Work Programme: 2009-2014

    In
    addition to consolidating and taking forward the numerous missions,
    programmes and schemes launched during 2004-2009, the Indian National
    Congress makes the following solemn promises to the people of our
    country.

    We will guarantee the maximum possible security to each and every citizen.

    Our
    policy is zero-tolerance towards terrorism from whatever source it
    originates. We have already initiated the process of equipping our
    police and other specialist security forces with the latest weapons and
    technology to meet terrorist threats. This process will be taken
    forward vigourously. More specialist battalions will be raised and
    positioned in key locations across the country.

    Citizenship
    is a right and a matter of pride. With the huge IT expertise available
    in our country, it is possible to provide every Indian with a unique
    identity card after the publication of the national population register
    in the year 2011.

    We will ensure
    the highest level of defence preparedness and also take further steps
    for the welfare of the defence forces and their families.

    During
    the BJP-led NDA government, over Rs 24,000 crores of funds meant for
    defence modernisation were simply not spent. In the last five years,
    modernisation of our defence forces has resumed substantially. This
    will continue at a rapid pace. The Indian National Congress also
    pledges to make India’s defence forces technology-enabled and equipped
    with modern weapons, aircraft, ships and delivery systems to repel any
    threat from land, sea or air.

    Recognizing
    their special concerns, a new and separate department of
    ex-servicemen’s welfare was established in 2004 by the Congress-led UPA
    Government. Ex-servicemen constitute a large cadre of dedicated and
    trained persons. We will utilize them extensively in crucial
    nation-building tasks.

    We will accelerate the process of police reforms

    The
    Indian National Congress recognizes the imperative of police reforms. A
    clear distinction between the political executive and police
    administration will be made. The police force will be better
    provisioned especially in the matter of housing and education
    facilities; the police force will be made more representative of the
    diversity our population; and police recruitment will be made more
    effective and training professionalized to confront new and emerging
    threats. Accountability of the police force will be institutionalized.

    We will build on the success of the NREGA and take the scheme forward

    The
    National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, first promised by the Indian
    National Congress in its 2004 Lok Sabha elections manifesto, has been
    an outstanding success.

    While
    drawing on the lessons of various social audits, the Indian National
    Congress now pledges at least 100 days of work at a real wage of Rs 100
    a day for everyone as an entitlement under the NREGA.

    Along the lines of NREGA, we will enact a National Food Security Act

    The
    Indian National Congress pledges to enact a Right to Food law that
    guarantees access to sufficient food for all people, particularly the
    most vulnerable sections of society. The Indian National Congress
    pledges that every family living below the poverty line either in rural
    or urban areas will be entitled, by law, to 25 kgs of rice or wheat per
    month at Rs 3 per kg. Subsidised community kitchens will be set up in
    all cities for homeless people and migrants with the support of the
    Central government.

    We will guarantee health security for all

    The
    National Rural Health Mission has already begun to make a noticeable
    impact and will be implemented with an even greater sense of urgency.
    The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) introduced by the
    Congress-led UPA Government offers health insurance for poor families.
    Expenditure on health is a major cause of indebtedness, particularly in
    rural areas. The Indian National Congress pledges that every family
    living below the poverty line will be covered by the RSBY over the next
    three years. Every district headquarters hospital will be upgraded to
    provide quality heath facilities to all.

    We will ensure comprehensive social security to those at special risk

    The
    Indian National Congress will ensure a comprehensive cover of social
    security to all persons who are at special risk including (i)
    single-woman headed households; (ii) disabled and the elderly; (iii)
    urban homeless; (iv) released bonded workers; (v) members of primitive
    tribal groups; and (vi) members of designated “most backward” dalit
    communities.

    We will be make quality education affordable to everyone

    India
    today has one of the largest educational loan programmes in the world.
    Over the past five years, over fifteen lakh students have received
    loans totaling more than Rs 26,000 crores and are pursuing various
    professional courses.

    The Indian
    National Congress now pledges that all students admitted to any
    recognized course in any recognized college/university will be
    provided, on a need basis, either a scholarship or an educational loan
    without collateral repayable over a very long period.

    In
    order to ensure quality school education for all children, we have
    already made a beginning by approving the setting up of one model
    school in every block of the country. Every year, over the next five
    years, we will add one more model school in every block.

    The
    Indian National Congress pledges to focus more sharply on outcomes and
    achievement levels in education and not just on enrolment. It also
    pledges a major programme for training of teachers and improving the
    physical environment in schools.

    A
    massive expansion in higher education has been undertaken in the past
    two years—8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, 5 new Indian Institutes of Science
    Education and Research, 30 new Central Universities, 20 new Indian
    Institutes of Information Technology and 374 new colleges in
    educationally-deprived districts. The Indian National Congress pledges
    to ensure that these expansion plans are implemented fully with their
    twin focus on excellence and affirmative action.

    We will implement a nation-wide skill development programme

    India
    is a young country with 70% of the population below the age of 35. To
    reap the “demographic dividend”, the Indian National Congress believes
    that there is an urgent need to put in place an extensive skill
    development programme so that the employability of youth is enhanced.
    The Congress-led UPA government has already put in place a National
    Skills Development Mission. Rs 30,000 crore will be invested in this
    mission which is of crucial importance for the future of our youth.
    Funds will be provided to ensure its widest possible coverage. A wider
    and more comprehensive spectrum of skills will be imparted.

    We will expand schemes for improving well-being of farmers and their families

    In
    addition to continuing the programmes that were launched over the past
    five years, the Indian National Congress pledges that every small and
    marginal farmer in the country will have access to bank credit at lower
    rates of interest. While the massive loan waiver scheme has already
    been implemented and 3.68 crore farmer-families have benefited from it,
    the Indian National Congress now pledges to extend interest relief to
    all farmers who repay bank loans on schedule.

    The
    Indian National Congress is determined to ensure that farming becomes a
    profitable occupation. All measures in support of this objective will
    be taken. Programmes for agricultural diversification, agri-processing
    and rural industrialization will be pursued systematically. Dairying,
    aquaculture, fisheries, horticulture and sericulture will receive an
    additional boost. The special needs of crops like tea, coffee, rubber,
    spices, cashew and coconut will be met. A renewed emphasis will be
    placed on wasteland development and afforestation.

    The
    Indian National Congress will implement comprehensive crop insurance
    schemes and will also examine the feasibility of direct income support
    to farmers in the ecologically vulnerable regions of the country.
    Minimum Support Price (MSP) and procurement will be ensured at the
    doorsteps of farmers.

    All controls
    on the free movement of farm commodities and processing of agricultural
    products and all regulations that depress incomes of farmers will be
    systematically eliminated.

    The Indian
    National Congress is firmly committed to ensuring that farmers get, at
    a very minimum, market rates for the land that is acquired for
    industrial projects. The Indian National Congress also believes that
    farmers should be given an option to become stakeholders in such
    industrial ventures. As a matter of priority, the National
    Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007, that could not be passed
    because of the obstructionist tactics of the BJP, will be taken up for
    passage in the 15th Lok Sabha. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will also
    be amended to ensure that the interests of land-owners are more than
    adequately protected.

    We will democratize and professionalise the functioning of cooperatives

    The
    Indian cooperative movement comprising about 5 lakh cooperatives with
    more than 22 crore members is the largest such movement in the world.
    It plays a crucial role in our development. The Indian National
    Congress has always stood for its democratic, autonomous and
    professional functioning and this will be ensured by enacting
    appropriate laws, including making a Constitutional provision.

    We will give even greater impetus to the empowerment of weaker sections of society.

    The
    empowerment of the weaker sections of society — scheduled castes,
    scheduled tribes, OBCs, minorities and women — has been an article of
    faith with the Indian National Congress. This will be carried forward
    with emphasis on education, particularly skill-based and professional
    education.

    Education at all stages —
    primary, secondary and university — will be free in all respects for
    boys and girls belonging to dalit and adivasi communities.

    Coaching
    fees for all entrance exams for at least one lakh scheduled
    caste/scheduled tribe students every year will be paid by the Central
    Government. National scholarships for boys and girls belonging to
    scheduled castes and scheduled tribes will be further increased.

    The
    Indian National Congress will take steps to ensure that allocations
    under the Special Component Plan for scheduled castes and the Tribal
    Sub-Plan for scheduled tribes (first introduced by Indira Gandhi over
    three decades ago) are made in accordance with their proportions in the
    population.

    An unprecedented special
    drive was launched by the Prime Minister and over 53,000 vacancies in
    government have been filled through direct recruitment or promotion of
    members belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. This drive
    will continue.

    The Indian National
    Congress is deeply committed to pursuing affirmative action for
    scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the private sector. It has
    already initiated a national debate 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 scheduled
    castes, scheduled tribes and OBCs.

    For
    the first time, a separate Ministry of Minority Affairs was created in
    May 2004 and the Rajinder Sachar Committee was set up to look into the
    social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in the
    country. The implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar
    Committee is already under way and an Equal Opportunity Commission will
    be established by law. Nearly four lakh scholarships have been awarded
    over the past two years alone for pre-matric, post-matric and
    professional courses, with more than 50% of these being awarded to girl
    students. The Prime Minister’s 15-point programme was launched in June
    2006 with physical and financial targets for minorities in all welfare
    programmes of the Central Government. A special development package for
    the 90 minority-concentration districts in different states has been
    introduced.

    The
    Indian National Congress is irrevocably committed to ensuring that the
    Constitutional rights of all minorities are protected fully, that the
    representation of minorities in public administration increases
    substantially, and that minorities recognize that the government is
    working for their welfare at all times. The Indian National Congress
    has pioneered reservations for minorities in Kerala, Karnataka and
    Andhra Pradesh in government employment and education on the basis of
    their social and economic backwardness. We are committed to adopt this
    policy at the national level. A Wakf Development Corporation will be
    established to develop wakf properties. A National Unani University
    will be set up. The corpus of the Maulana Azad Educational Foundation
    will be doubled.

    The Indian National
    Congress introduced reservation for women in panchayats and
    nagarpalikas. Today, about 40% of the elected representatives in
    panchayats are women, compared to a reservation of 33% mandated for
    them. This is nothing short of a quiet revolution. The Indian National
    Congress will ensure that the Bill for reserving 33% of the seats in
    the Lok Sabha and the State legislatures is passed in the 15th Lok
    Sabha and that the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha are held on the
    basis of one-third reservation for women.

    Over
    the next five years, the Indian National Congress will endeavour to
    ensure that at least half of the country’s rural women population will
    be enrolled as members of self-help groups linked with banks and that
    they will get loans from banks at moderate interest rates. The Indian
    National Congress also proposes to reserve one-third of all central
    government jobs for women.

    The
    Indian National Congress believes that, in addition to education,
    business development programmes are needed on a larger-scale for
    scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women. Preferential policies
    will be adopted in government contracts to stimulate entrepreneurial
    activities amongst these groups.

    Social
    security schemes for occupations like weavers, fishermen and
    fisherwomen, toddy tappers, leather workers, plantation labour,
    construction labour, mine workers and beedi workers will be expanded.

    The
    Indian National Congress is deeply committed to ensuring equality of
    opportunity and full participation of persons with disabilities,
    including the blind, in all sectors of life. To begin with, a
    comprehensive review of laws and programmes will be undertaken and the
    shortcomings noticed in their implementation will be removed.

    We will combat communalism of all kinds and caste atrocities with determination

    The
    Indian National Congress reiterates its unflinching resolve to combat
    communalism of all kinds and to deal ruthlessly with those perpetrating
    atrocities on weaker sections like dalits and women. The Indian
    National Congress believes in ensuring the right to compensation and
    rehabilitation for all victims of communal, ethnic and caste violence
    on standards and levels that are binding on every government. The
    Indian National Congress will propose a law that empowers the National
    Human Rights Commission to monitor investigation and trial in all cases
    of communal and caste violence.

    The
    Indian National Congress will bring school curricula of various
    communal and sectarian organizations — regardless of their affiliation
    —under the regulatory purview of an empowered national body.

    We will bring a sharp focus on the special needs of children, especially the girl child

    For
    the first time, a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
    was established in 2006. The Commission’s mandate is to ensure that the
    welfare of children as guaranteed by various laws is protected and
    promoted. New laws have also been passed to prohibit child labour and
    child marriage. New schemes to improve the nutritional status of
    children, especially girls, and to educate them have been launched in
    the past five years. Over 18 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers have
    benefited from an increase in their remuneration last year.

    The
    Indian National Congress commits itself to the universalisation of the
    ICDS by March 2012 and to provide an anganwadi in every habitation and
    full coverage of children up to the age of six for food, nutrition and
    pre-school education. The special requirements of children of migrant
    workers in towns and cities will be met through new programmes in
    association with civil society organizations. A number of programmes
    have already been launched to combat the still widely-prevalent
    phenomenon of child malnutrition and these will be infused with an even
    greater sense of urgency.

    The Indian
    National Congress will introduce special incentives for the girl child
    to correct the adverse sex ratio and to ensure education of girl
    children. Girl children in districts that have an adverse sex ratio
    and/or low enrolment of girls, monetary incentives will be given to the
    girl child to be credited to the girl child’s account on her completing
    primary school, middle school, secondary school and higher secondary
    school.

    We will make elected panchayat institutions financially strong

    Thanks
    entirely to the tireless efforts of Rajiv Gandhi, there are some
    2,50,000 elected panchayat bodies all over the country with almost 32
    lakh elected representatives. It is through such institutions that we
    will ensure inclusive governance which is essential for inclusive
    economic growth. The Indian National Congress is unwavering in its
    commitment to full Constitutionally-mandated devolution of funds,
    functions and functionaries to the panchayats. The annual allocations
    to gram panchayats that can be used for purposes designated as priority
    by the gram sabha will be substantially stepped up.

    The
    Indian National Congress will also upgrade the technical capabilities
    of panchayat institutions and ensure that information technology is
    used extensively to enhance their effectiveness.

    We will connect all villages to a broadband network in three years time

    While
    connectivity across the country has increased manifold in recent years,
    the Indian National Congress pledges to bring the fruits of the IT
    revolution to more cities and towns. It also pledges to connect every
    village to a broadband network within three years. This will help
    locate new, non-agricultural jobs in villages and open vast new
    opportunities for our rural youth. Thus the vision of Rajiv Gandhi —
    the use of IT for rural transformation — will be realized in even
    greater measure. Already, IT is being used in areas like
    computerization of land records but we now promise a bolder, time-bound
    initiative.

    We will give special focus to the small entrepreneur and to small and medium enterprises

    Small
    and medium enterprises and the self-employed are the backbone of our
    industrial and service economy. They are the major generators of
    productive employment for our youth. The Indian National Congress
    pledges a “new deal” for SMEs and for first-generation entrepreneurs by
    assuring them greater access to collateral-free credit, liberating them
    from the multiplicity of laws and forms, and freeing them from the
    clutches of inspectors.

    The Indian
    National Congress pledges a targeted cluster-based approach to the
    growth of SMEs. There are a very large number of such clusters already
    in different areas like textiles, food processing, handlooms and
    handicrafts, consumer goods, khadi, coir and other traditional
    industries, and engineering. These clusters, mostly in small and medium
    towns, will be given access to finance, technology and marketing and
    will be provided vastly improved infrastructure.

    We will maintain the path of high growth with fiscal prudence and low inflation

    As
    the experience of 2004-09 demonstrates so vividly, rapid economic
    growth creates opportunities for increased government expenditure in
    vital areas like education, health, agriculture, social security and
    infrastructure. Average growth in the first four years of the
    Congress-led UPA government was 9% per year for the first time in our
    history. We will strive to maintain this momentum with a relentless
    emphasis on growth that accelerates the generation of productive jobs
    for our youth. The Indian National Congress is also firmly committed to
    maintaining high growth with low inflation, particularly in relation to
    prices of essential agricultural and industrial commodities.

    The
    Indian National Congress reiterates its commitment to the path of
    fiscal responsibility so that the ability of the Centre to invest in
    essential social and physical infrastructure is continuously enhanced.
    This will require that all subsidies reach only the truly needy and
    poor sections of our society. The Indian National Congress will
    continue its efforts to create and implement a national consensus on
    this issue.

    Both
    the public sector and private sector are essential for India’s
    continued high growth success story. The Indian National Congress
    rejects the policy of blind privatization followed by the BJP-led NDA
    government, but believes that the Indian people have every right to own
    part of the shares of public sector companies while the government
    retains majority shareholding. Public sector enterprises in the
    manufacturing sector (like energy, transport and telecom) and in the
    financial sector (like banks and insurance companies) will remain in
    the public sector and will be given all support to grow and become
    competitive.

    The manufacturing
    industry in India has seen a revival in recent years and this will be
    sustained and deepened, particularly labour-intensive manufacturing.
    The emphasis in all foreign investment policies will be maximization of
    local value-addition and export potential. The Indian National Congress
    will ensure that the policies it has put in place for attracting
    private investment for oil exploration will also be followed for other
    mineral resources, including coal and iron-ore.

    The
    Indian National Congress remains committed to ensuring the highest
    standards of corporate governance in private companies, especially to
    protect the interests of small shareholders and small investors.
    Regulations will be made to ensure good corporate governance, ethical
    business practices and accountability to all stakeholders.

    We will introduce the goods and services tax from April 1, 2010.

    The
    Congress-led UPA government successfully implemented VAT throughout the
    country. This has brought abundant revenues to all States. The Indian
    National Congress now pledges to take the next decisive step and
    introduce a moderate goods and services tax (GST). Once GST is
    implemented, all other central and state-level indirect taxes such as
    VAT, excise duty, service tax, entertainment tax, luxury tax, etc. will
    stand abolished and bring substantial relief to the aam admi. GST will
    create a seamless national common market for our farmers, artisans and
    entrepreneurs and will boost employment. State finances, and more
    importantly the finances of panchayats and nagarpalikas, will be put on
    a sound foundation.

    We will give a completely new look to urban governance

    While
    the bulk of our population still lives and works in villages, India is
    rapidly urbanizing. But the provision of basic infrastructure in towns
    and cities has not kept pace with its requirements. A massive programme
    of low-cost social housing and sanitation is needed to make our urban
    areas more livable. Recognizing that our towns and cities are engines
    of creativity and innovation, the Indian National Congress pledges to
    create a new model of urban administration with financially-viable
    self-government institutions as the pivot.

    We will offer a new deal to our youth to participate in governance

    The
    Indian National Congress has always been the party that has reposed its
    confidence in youth. It was Rajiv Gandhi who gave all 18 year-olds the
    right to vote and it was he who declared Swami Vivekananda’s birthday
    on January 12th as National Youth Day. The IT revolution that has
    spread in our country has opened up whole new avenues for our youth.

    The
    Indian National Congress will design and launch a voluntary national
    youth corps which would enable young men and women in the age group of
    18-23 to serve up to two years in constructive nation-building
    activities for which they will be suitably compensated.

    The
    Indian National Congress will also make a beginning to induct youth
    into organs of government. As a beginning, it will reserve a proportion
    of seats in panchayats and nagarpalikas for men and women below the age
    of 35 years without detriment to the existing reservations for
    scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, OBCs and women.

    The
    Indian National Congress has periodically renewed itself by inducting
    young men and women into the Party and entrusting them with
    responsibilities. Under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi,
    the Indian National Congress has launched a unique exercise to bring
    youth from all sections of society and all walks of life into the
    political mainstream through the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and the
    National Students Union of India (NSUI). For the very first time in any
    political party, there are hundreds of elected youth leaders in Punjab
    and Uttarakhand. This exercise is now being conducted in Gujarat and
    Tamil Nadu and will soon encompass other parts of the country. This is
    a practical demonstration of the deep commitment of the Indian National
    Congress to open new political space and opportunities to our youth.

    We will protect India’s natural environment and take steps to rejuvenate it

    The
    Indian National Congress has declared the sacred Ganga as a “national
    river”. The Ganga River Basin Authority has been established with the
    Prime Minister at its head for ensuring that development needs are met
    in an ecologically sustainable manner. This Authority will be accorded
    the highest priority. Water security is of paramount concern to the
    Indian National Congress and steps will be taken to enhance it
    measurably for local communities.

    India
    has an enormously rich biodiversity that is under threat on account of
    various reasons. The Indian National Congress commits itself to
    strengthening people’s movements whose objective will be to protect and
    preserve our bio-resources and ensure their sustainable use.

    Climate
    change has now emerged as a serious challenge for the world community.
    India too has begun to feel its impact in different ways. The
    Congress-led UPA government has already unveiled a National Action Plan
    for Climate Change. It is an acknowledgment of our responsibility to
    take credible actions within the overall framework of meeting the
    development aspirations of our people for higher economic growth and a
    higher standard of living. This action plan will be implemented in
    letter and spirit.

    We will carry out a massive renewal of our extensive science and technology infrastructure

    One
    of the most outstanding legacies of Jawaharlal Nehru is the vast
    infrastructure for science and technology that India possesses and
    which has made so many far-reaching contributions to the country’s
    progress — in agriculture, nuclear energy, defence, space, industry,
    energy, telecom and IT. The Indian National Congress is firmly commited
    to extend full support to the modernization and expansion of our
    science and technology institutions and will ensure that they attract
    and retain the best talent from India and abroad.

    We will pursue judicial reforms to cut delays in courts

    Although
    delays in the Supreme Court have come down appreciably in recent years,
    delays in High Courts and district courts are still unacceptably high.
    The Indian National Congress has always been of the view that justice
    delayed is justice denied and will therefore pursue judicial reforms to
    ensure timely completion of the hearing and disposal of cases. As a
    reflection of this priority, the Gram Nyayalaya Act, a key promise of
    our 2004 Manifesto, was passed by Parliament last year. Setting up of
    Gram Nyayalayas at the headquarters of the intermediate panchayats and
    mobile courts in the rural areas will bring to the aam admi speedy,
    affordable and substantial justice.

    We will continue to be sensitive to regional aspirations

    The
    Indian National Congress is aware that in some large states the
    persistence of intra-regional imbalances in development has given rise
    to the demand for separate states. While it has introduced several
    programmes to redress these disparities, recognising the legitimacy of
    these concerns and acknowledging that the solution may vary from one
    state to another, the Indian National Congress will find pragmatic
    solutions to deal with these demands.

    We will ensure energy security for our country

    The
    last two years have seen a very sharp turnaround in the addition to
    power generating capacity. This momentum will be maintained and it will
    be ensured that the country adds at least 12,000-15,000 mw of capacity
    every year through a mix of sources—coal, hydel, nuclear and
    renewables. Rural electrification and reduction in distribution losses
    will be given the highest priority. The Indian National Congress
    promises a very significant increase in the share of nuclear power,
    both through domestic and imported technology which has now been made
    possible by the civil nuclear agreements. The pace of oil and gas
    exploration will be intensified. India’s oil diplomacy will be pursued
    aggressively. The Indian National Congress will implement a scheme to
    supply energy to poor families at affordable prices.

    We will take further steps to preserve and promote our heritage

    India
    has an extraordinarily rich heritage going back centuries. The Indian
    National Congress will take further steps to protect, preserve and
    promote this heritage and ensure that its value is fully appreciated,
    especially by the younger generation particularly. A statutory National
    Heritage Sites Commission will be made fully operational. This will be
    an important instrument to strengthen the foundations of our
    pluralistic culture and inheritances.

    We will continue to pursue an independent, pro-India foreign policy

    The
    Indian National Congress has always upheld India’s supreme national
    interests and has often braved criticism and opposition both at home
    and abroad in defending the country’s interests. At the same time, the
    Indian National Congress has always believed that it is India’s
    historic destiny to be engaged and connected with the rest of the world
    and, in particular, with the countries of Asia.

    The
    foreign policy followed in the past five years has yielded handsome
    results: the foremost example is the agreements on civil nuclear
    cooperation signed with the USA, Russia, France and Kazakhstan.

    India’s
    well-thought out foreign policy and its patient but forceful diplomacy
    has obliged Pakistan to admit that its citizens were responsible for
    carrying out the dastardly attacks in Mumbai in November 2008. The
    Indian National Congress has striven for an enduring peace and for
    close economic relations with Pakistan. The Indian National Congress
    has also encouraged extensive people-to-people contacts between the two
    countries, particularly amongst the younger generation. But the Mumbai
    attacks have cast a long shadow on the on-going dialogue and engagement
    process. It is now entirely upto Pakistan to break the impasse by
    taking credible action against those responsible for the carnage in
    Mumbai. If it does so and dismantles the terrorist networks that
    operate from its soil, a Congress-led government will not be found
    wanting in its response.

    The
    long-held policy of the Indian National Congress is that the Government
    of Sri Lanka should find an honourable solution to the strife in that
    country and ensure that all communities, especially the Tamil-speaking
    people, are guaranteed and enjoy equal rights within the framework of a
    united Sri Lanka. The Indian National Congress offers to help the
    parties reach an agreement as envisaged in the India-Sri Lanka Peace
    Accord of 1987 which remains the only basis for a politically
    negotiated settlement.

    The Indian
    National Congress welcomes the return of multi-party democracy to
    Bangladesh and Nepal. It will work with both countries to deepen
    bilateral ties across a wide spectrum of areas for demonstrable mutual
    benefit. The Indian National Congress also believes that the two
    countries must take note of India’s security concerns in a more
    meaningful manner.

    The Indian
    National Congress has always championed the legitimate and peaceful
    aspirations of the long-suffering Palestinian people and urges that a
    viable Palestinian state be established at the earliest.

    India’s
    relationships with countries like the USA, Russia, China and Japan and
    with countries of Europe have been transformed by sustained diplomatic
    efforts since 2004. These relationships will be further deepened. India
    has begun a whole new process of engagement with the countries of
    Africa where there is great appreciation of what India has to offer to
    them. This engagement will be expanded.

    The Indian National Congress will intensify the involvement of overseas Indians in development

    The
    Indian National Congress takes great pride, as does the entire country,
    in the outstanding accomplishments of overseas Indians in different
    fields. The Indian National Congress also acknowledges the vital role
    remittances by overseas Indians play in bolstering the country’s
    finances. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs was created in May
    2004 to reflect the priority that the Indian National Congress places
    on maximizing the contributions of the overseas Indian community to our
    country’s economic, scientific and technological progress. A number of
    measures have been taken to protect the interests of lakhs of Indian
    workers in the Middle East. This will continue to be a matter of
    priority. New opportunities will be created for overseas Indians to
    play their rightful role in the renewal of institutions of higher
    learning and in starting new ventures and businesses. Four new
    universities will be established with 50% of the seats reserved for
    PIO/NRI students.

    V. An Appeal

    The Indian National Congress has been central to the public life of our country for almost 125 years.

    It embodies the very idea of India like no other party.

    Throughout
    its long history, the priorities, policies and programmes of the Indian
    National Congress have been anchored in a vision of an economically
    prosperous, socially just, politically united and culturally harmonious
    India.

    Steadfastness to basic principles has never impeded responsiveness to new and emerging challenges.

    The people of our country have, time and again, placed their trust and confidence in the Indian National Congress.

    It has been the relentless endeavour of the Indian National Congress to fulfill the expectations of our people.

    Much has been accomplished in the past six decades.

    But much more remains to be done.

    The
    Indian National Congress comes before the people of India with utmost
    humility, proud of its achievements but always conscious of the tasks
    awaiting us as a nation.

    The Indian
    National Congress appeals to the people of India to vote for it on the
    strength of its contributions, its convictions, its concerns and its
    charter.

    Through this manifesto, the
    Indian National Congress renews its resolve to remain the foremost
    instrument of socio-economic transformation based on conviction,
    commitment, competence and compassion .

    Through
    this manifesto, the Indian National Congress rededicates itself to the
    politics of service and the politics of strengthening the foundations
    of the modern Indian nation-state.

    Through
    this manifesto, the Indian National Congress pledges to the people of
    our country its determination to implement its promises with a
    single-minded sense of purpose.

    Vote for the Idea of India: Vote Indian National Congress

    Vote for Unity through Diversity: Vote Indian National Congress

    Vote for Economic Growth with Communal Harmony: Vote Indian National Congress

    Vote for Economic Growth with Social Justice: Vote Indian National Congress.

    Vote for Security, Stability, Continuity and Integrity: Vote Indian National Congress

    A Vote for the Congress is a Vote For Your Future and the Future of Your Children.

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