Congress Manifesto 2024 focuses on jobs, reservation, healthcare; promises Caste Census; silent on CAA

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April 5, 2024

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New Delhi: The Congress has released its manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha election, with jobs creation, development of infrastructure, and a national caste census among the major highlights.

The manifesto was released in Delhi by party boss Mallikarjun Kharge, who was flanked by senior leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram - who led the committee that drafted the document - was also present.

"This manifesto will be 'nyay ka dastavez' (a document for justice) in the political history of the country. From the five pillars of the 'Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra' - yuva (youth), kisan (farmers), naari (women), shramik (workers), and hissedari (equity), 25 guarantees will emerge... ," Mr Kharge said.

The overall theme of the manifesto is based on 'work', 'wealth', and 'welfare', the party said.

"'Work' means you must provide jobs. 'Wealth' must be created before it is distributed. 'Welfare' means taking care of the poorer sections," the Congress said.

Silent on CAA

While the manifesto is silent on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and restoration of Article 370, the party promises immediate restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

Caste Census

One of the biggest talking points is the caste census - a political hot topic that has been in the headlines since the Bihar government's statewide survey was released in November.

The 48-page document promises to amend the Constitution to raise the 50 per cent cap on reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, with Caste Census providing the latest data to go ahead with the affirmative action. Addressing land issues, the party also pledges to establish an authority to monitor the distribution of government land and surplus land under the land ceiling Acts to the poor.

MSP for Farmers

The party has also promised to implement MSP, or minimum support price, for farmer growing cash crops. The MSP issue has been at the heart of protests by farmers since 2020, when lakhs from across the country went on a months-long agitation against the centre's (now-scrapped) three farm laws.

The Congress has said it will give a permanent legal guarantee for MSP - a core demand for protesting farmers - based on the formula recommended by the Swaminathan Commission.

"Congress has been the only party that has lent its ear to the distress of the farmers and farm labourers, and we are determined to do everything possible to alleviate their pain and make agriculture a desirable livelihood," the party said, attacking the BJP's response to the farmers protest as "callous and brutal".

Poverty

The party also vowed to eliminate poverty by improving the fortunes of 23 crore people over the next decade. Mr Chidambaram attacked the BJP as a "government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich", and said it is "driven by the interests of the top 1 per cent".

"... but we will look at the bottom 50 per cent. The bottom 50 per cent is as important. It has been estimated 23 crore people are still poor in this country. The UPA lifted 24 crore people out of poverty and we promise, if the Congress-led government comes to power in 2024, we will lift 23 crore in 10 years."

As part of this promise - and to empower women - the Congress said it would launch a 'Mahalakshmi' scheme to provide an unconditional cash transfer of Rs 1 lakh per year to the oldest female member of every poor family.  Beneficiaries will be identified as those from the bottom level of the income pyramid.

Inequality of income and opportunity remain India's ugliest truth. It is the moral and political responsibility of any government to ensure that every family is assured of a basic income every month, the party said.

National Security, China

The Congress said it "recognises that national security is not enhanced by chest-thumping or exaggerated claims, but by quiet attention to borders and resolute defence preparedness".

The party said it would work to restore status quo on the country's borders with China and "ensure areas where both armies patrolled in the past are again accessible to our soldiers".

This has been seen as a direct jab at the BJP over the military stand-off with China in parts of eastern Ladakh following violence in June 2020 that, the opposition has repeatedly claimed, led to New Delhi surrendering territory to Beijing.

On diplomatic tension with Maldives, the Congress said it work to "repair relations".

Healthcare

Universal free healthcare, including cost of diagnosis, surgery, and medication, will be made available, the party said. This will come with cashless insurance up to ₹ 25 lakh, like the model implemented in Rajasthan, when the Congress was in power.

"We promise that healthcare will be universal and free in public health centres, such as hospitals, clinics, PHCs, MHCs, and dispensaries, as well as health camps. Free healthcare will include examination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery, medicines, rehabilitation, and palliative care."

The Congress said it would also establish Assisted Living and Care Centres for disabled people and provide representation for them in local bodies.

Other Major Points

In a move likely to resonate strongly among unemployed youth struggling with massive loan debts, the party said it would "as a one-time measure of relief" write off all student educational loans, including unpaid interest. This amount will be calculated as on March 15.

Banks will be compensated by the government, the Congress said.

The party said it would also introduce a law to "recognise civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community".

The Congress said it would amend laws to "combine the efficiency of EVM and transparency of ballot papers". "Voting will be through the EVM but the voter will be able to hold and deposit the machine-generated voting slip into the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) unit," the party said.

2024 Lok Sabha Election

The election will be spread over seven phases beginning April 19. Votes will be declared June 4.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP - which is yet to release its manifesto - are bidding for a third consecutive term.  They face a combined challenge from the opposition, which has united (for the most part) under the INDIA banner led by the Congress. 

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May 26,2024

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New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asserted that the BJP will get a bigger win in opposition-ruled states due to a 'positive mandate' for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha polls, as he slammed the opposition's criticism of the Election Commission as a ploy to cover up for its impending loss.

In an interview with PTI, Shah claimed that his party has not resorted to any religion-based campaign but insisted that if canvassing against reservation for Muslims, and reaching out to voters on the abolition of Article 370 and implementing a Uniform Civil Code is religion-based campaign, then the BJP has done it and will continue doing so.

He dismissed the opposition's criticism of the Election Commission for its handling of poll data and the issue of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), saying that similar protocols and practices have been followed in previous assembly polls, including Telangana, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh where the BJP lost.

"If those elections were fair, then this election is also fair. When you see defeat, you start crying in advance and try to find excuses to go abroad. This can't go on and on. They want to go on vacation on June 6. So, they are telling something or the other," he said.

The Congress's questions about the polling process is aimed at covering up Rahul Gandhi's failure, he said.

Shah said the opposition party had not offered any such suggestion at the customary all-party meeting called by the poll watchdog before the elections. "Whenever the opposition loses an election, they raise some questions. There is zero possibility of rigging in EVMs and they want an election which can be rigged."

With six phases of the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls over, the BJP's key strategist said the party's assertion that its alliance will cross the 400-seat mark when the poll results are out on June 4 is not merely a poll slogan but a well thought-out goal.

He said, "We will surely cross 400 seats. We will also form governments in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh."

Assembly polls in the three states have been held alongside the Lok Sabha elections.

"If we get 399 seats and you say we have not crossed 400, then it is your wisdom. But the '400 paar' slogan is based on calculation and considered opinion," Shah said in his characteristic combative and sure-footed manner.

Asked if the party was overly dependent on Modi and if a relatively weak opposition was benefitting from its alliance, he said it was not a negative but a positive vote which the ruling alliance is receiving.

"This is not a negative vote. Please accept one thing. This is a positive vote. We will get people's support where (in states) we are in power. And mark my words...where we are not, we will be getting a bigger mandate. So this is a positive mandate for the work of the central government," he said.

As Modi has brought to fruition the BJP's core ideological plans, be it the poor's welfare, a secure country, abrogation of Article 370, a uniform law (UCC) across the country, women's reservation and Ram temple, his popularity naturally becomes the strength of the BJP, he added. "He is our biggest leader."

He accused the main opposition party of misleading people on the issue of Muslim reservation, insisting that its accusation that the BJP has been telling a lie rings hollow as it has already implemented such a religious quota in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

"If they divide the truth in pieces to mislead people, then isn't it our duty to put these pieces together and inform people," he said, defending Modi's intense attack on the Congress over the religious quota and the issue of redistribution of wealth.

"You might have heard and understood Rahul Gandhi's X-ray speech. So you want X-ray of what? And if you want to distribute it equally, then who will you distribute to? Manmohan Singh Ji said minorities are their priority. What do you make of this," he asked when questioned about the Congress's allegations against Modi.

To a question about the Congress's promise of giving Rs 1 lakh to women in poor households, he said the party has a history of making populist assurances to come to power but never fulfilling them.

Shah said, "They are in power in two-three states. They should at least fulfil this promise there. At least start giving Rs 1,500 which you promised (in Himachal Pradesh). You are talking about Rs 1 lakh, at least start giving Rs 1,500. Who will trust them."

Making his projection for the BJP in the states where the ruling party is eying major gains, he said it will anywhere between 24 to 30 seats in West Bengal and 16-17 in Odisha. Its alliance will bag nearly 17 seats in Andhra Pradesh. The three states have 42, 21 and 25 Lok Sabha seats, respectively.

Shah claimed that the BJP is set for a maiden majority in the Odisha assembly and expects to win 75 seats in the 147-member House. Its alliance will storm to power in Andhra too, he said.

People are angry with the Mamata Banerjee-led government over issues of corruption, cow and coal smuggling and infiltration, and the Sandeshkhali issue has exposed as to what extent she can stoop in her appeasement politics, he said.

With Modi spearheading the BJP's push in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, two states where the party has been so far unable to make much headway, in these polls, Shah said the party will certainly increase its vote share in the Dravidian state.

He said, "It is a very tight contest. We have a new team. I will not make an estimate with figures. But our seats and vote share will increase and we will certainly lay a strong foundation in Tamil Nadu. We can open our account in Kerala. We are in a good position in three seats."

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News Network
May 26,2024

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Cairo/Jerusalem, May 26: Hamas said it launched missiles at Tel Aviv on Sunday, prompting sirens to sound in the Israeli city for the first time in four months as the Palestinian group sought to show military strength despite Israel's Gaza offensive.

The Israeli military said eight projectiles were identified crossing from the area of Rafah, the southern tip of the Gaza Strip where Israel kept up genocidal operation despite a ruling by the top U.N. court ordering it to stop attacking the city.

The Israeli military said a number of the projectiles were intercepted. Israeli emergency services said they had received no reports of casualties.

In a statement on its Telegram channel, the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades said the rockets were launched in response to "Zionist massacres against civilians".

Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV said the rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip.

Rafah is located about 100 km (60 miles) south of Tel Aviv.

Israel claims it wants to root out Hamas fighters holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area, but its assault has worsened the plight of civilians and caused an international outcry.

On Sunday, Israeli strikes killed at least five Palestinians in Rafah, according to local medical services.

Israeli tanks have probed around the edges of the city, close to the main southern crossing point into Egypt, but have not yet entered the city in force.

Following the rocket salvo, Israel's hardline public security minister Itamar Ben Gvir - who is not part of Israel's war cabinet - urged the army to hit Rafah harder.

"Rafah with full force," he posted on X.

The development came amid a genocidal war that the Israeli regime has been waging against Gaza since October 7.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have died as a result of the brutal military onslaught that began following Al-Aqsa Storm, a retaliatory operation staged by the coastal sliver’s resistance movements.

Despite the unabated campaign of bloodshed and destruction, the regime has so far fallen short of realizing its goals.

These include defeating Gaza’s resistance, enabling liberation of those who were taken captive during Al-Aqsa Storm, and causing forced displacement of Gaza’s entire population to neighboring Egypt.

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May 17,2024

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Hubballi, May 17: Karnataka Police have arrested the killer, Vishwa, also known as Girish, in the sensational Anjali Ambigera murder case, police said on Friday.

Preliminary investigations reveal that Vishwa was a habitual thief who exploited innocent young women. The accused is also a drunkard and was caught while attempting to commit theft. He was also part of a gang which stole bikes.

The accused targeted gullible young women, enacting a drama of love and playing the emotional card to forcefully extort gold, silver, and cash from them. When Anjali did not agree to any of his attempts to rob her and outrightly rejected his offer to go with him to Mysuru city, he brutally killed her.

The police had formed two teams to hunt down the killer. One of the teams was searching in the south Karnataka region, and another team, which launched a hunt in Davanagere, nabbed him. The accused was arrested by the police on Thursday.

The police could not catch him sooner as the killer did not carry a mobile phone and did not use his phone for 15 days, before murdering Anjali. The jurisdictional Bendigeri Police were aware of the killer's history, but even after the complaint by the girl’s family, they showed "utter negligence".

The 24-year-old Vishwa entered Anjali Ambigera's (20) residence at 5.30 A.M. on Wednesday and stabbed the young woman multiple times before she could react. Vishwa dragged Anjali Ambigera all over the house, kicking and stabbing her. Later, he pushed her into the kitchen where he stabbed her repeatedly.

Despite efforts by Anjali’s grandmother and two sisters to stop the attacker, he killed her and managed to flee. The incident occurred in the Veerapura Oni area within the jurisdiction of the Bendigeri Police Station.

Vishwa had been blackmailing Anjali and pressurising her to accompany him to Mysuru without informing her parents. The incident which took place close on the heels of MCA student Neha Hiremath’s brutal murder by the jilted lover has raised concern over the safety of women all across the state.

The BJP had demanded the resignation of Home Minister G. Parameshwara while the Congress leaders have also demanded that the Hubballi-Dharwad Police Commissioner Renuka Sukumar should be transferred for failing to sensitise the police force regarding issues of women’s safety.

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