The Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress manifestos have provided much zest to electioneering for the May 10 Karnataka assembly polls, which was initially thought to be a bland battle without much ado.
In the past two days, the two manifestos have taken centre stage and it is likely to spur the campaigning till the elections are over.
The documents providing a vision of the two national political parties for the next five years suddenly became the talk of the town like never before.
While the BJP released its ”nationalistic” manifesto with a ‘Hindutva hue’ on May 1, the Congress made its ”secular” manifesto public on May 2. The BJP has called its manifesto ‘Praja Pranalike-2023′ (Citizens’ Manifesto-2023) and the Congress ‘Paradise of peace to all’.
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Amid the two giants, the JD(S) too brought out its ‘Janata Pranalike’ (People’s Manifesto).
The ruling BJP has promised in its manifesto to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The party also promised to create a special wing in the state called ‘Karnataka State Wing against Religious Fundamentalism and Terror (K-SWIFT).
The party said if it was voted to power, it would allocate Rs 1,500 crore to develop Kalyana Circuit, Banavasi Circuit, Parashurama Circuit, Kaveri Circuit and Ganagapura Corridor to transform Karnataka into India’s most favoured tourist destination.
The BJP manifesto revolves around Six A’s, namely Anna (food security), Akshara (quality education), Arogya (affordable health), Aadaya (assured income), Abhaya (social justice for all) and Abhivruddhi (development).
Free cooking gas cylinders thrice a year for BPL families on Ugadi, Ganesha Chaturthi and Deepavali festivals and ‘Atal’ food centres to provide affordable and healthy food are other lucrative offers. The BJP has also promised to launch the ‘Poshane’ scheme through which every BPL household will be provided with a half litre of Nandini milk every day and five kg ‘Shri Anna – siri dhaanya’ (millets) through monthly ration kits.
The ‘Sarvarigu Suru Yojane’ is a scheme under which the Revenue Department will identify and distribute 10 lakh housing sites across the state to the homeless beneficiaries, if the BJP is voted to power. The Congress was doing well with its five guarantees and the proposed pro-people policies but it stirred up a hornet’s nest by saying in its manifesto that it would ban organisations like the Bajrang Dal and the Popular Front of India that spread hatred. The Congress said it was committed to taking firm and decisive action against individuals and organisations spreading hatred amongst communities on the grounds of caste and religion. “We believe that the law and Constitution is sacrosanct and cannot be violated by individuals and organisations like Bajrang Dal, PFI or others promoting enmity or hatred, whether among majority or minority communities. We will take decisive action as per law including imposing a ban on such organisations,” the party said in its manifesto. Since most Bajrang Dal activists are also the cadres of the BJP, the Congress eventually drew the ire of the saffron party in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular, who got ammunition to target his rival party.
“The Congress in its manifesto has decided to lock up Lord Hanuman. Initially, they locked up Prabhu Shri Ram (Lord Ram). And now they want to lock up people who say ‘Jai Bajrangbali’.” The BJP has been projecting Congress as an ‘anti-Hindu’ party. The Prime Minister claimed it was an attempt to lock up ‘Bajrangbali’ and his devotees after ”locking up” Lord Rama in Ayodhya till the late 1980s when the door of the temple was opened. He even made a point to chant ‘Jai Bajrangbali’ at the beginning and end of his speech to convey the message that his party stood with the Bajrang Dal.
The possibility of banning the Bajrang Dal eclipsed the promising guarantees of Congress, which are ‘Gruha Jyothi’, ‘Gruha Lakshmi’, ‘Anna Bhagya’, ‘Yuva Nidhi’ and ‘Shakti’.
Gruha Jyothi promises 200 units of free electricity a month to all households. Under ‘Anna Bhagya’, every person in a BPL (below poverty line) family will receive 10 kg food grains, which can be rice or millets including ragi and jowar every month.
Under the ‘Yuva Nidhi’ scheme, Rs 3,000 per month will be provided to all unemployed graduates and Rs 1,500 a month for all unemployed diploma holders (both in the age group of 18 to 25) for two years. While the ‘Shakti’ scheme proposes free travel for women throughout the state in regular government-run KSRTC/ BMTC buses, under the ‘Gruha Lakshmi’ scheme, each woman head of a family will receive Rs 2,000 monthly assistance.
The party also promised to enact a ‘Karnataka Whistleblowers Protection Act’ if voted to power.
The Congress said it would demand Karnataka’s rightful share from the Centre in total taxes collected, and fight against the efforts to ”dilute the Constitutional rights in the federal system”. The party said it would reject the National Education Policy and formulate a State Education Policy. The Janata Dal (Secular) on its part has promised to restore the four per cent reservation given to the Muslims under 2B category of Other Backward Castes, which the BJP government scrapped at the fag end of its tenure, recently.
Also, the party led by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda has promised to provide an assistance of Rs two lakh to women who marry youths that are engaged in farming as their occupation. It has vowed to ”throw out” Amul and save Karnataka’s Nandini dairy brand, calling it Kannadiga’s identity, among various assurances. The party has also assured that it would bring in a law reserving jobs for Kannadigas in the private sector, and to provide free higher education for economically-weaker students.