The Congress also promised to "revitalise" institutions like Reserve Bank of India, Election Commission and CBI, by restoring their autonomy while making them accountable to Parliament.
The Congress on Tuesday unveiled its election manifesto, pledging to create jobs, tackle farm distress, bring in the GST 2.0 with a single and moderate rate and offer `72,000 a year to poor families if it comes to power.
With the tagline “Congress Will Deliver”, the party, in a 55-page document, also made its intent clear to abolish “incompetent intermeddler” Niti Aayog and constitute a modern-day Planning Commission with redefined responsibilities. It promised to launch MGNREGA 3.0 and raise guaranteed employment up to 150 days a year from 100 days. It said it would pull 10 crore people out of poverty by 2024 while preparing the ground for the complete wipe-out of poverty by 2030.
The manifesto said a Congress government will have a separate budget for farmers, scrap the archaic APMC Act, redesign the Fasal Bima Yojana and direct insurance companies to charge premiums on a ‘no-profit, no-loss’ basis, to ensure that farm distress is adequately addressed.
It also proposed to fill up 22 lakh government vacancies, allocate as much as 6% of GDP to education, boost healthcare infrastructure and enhance safety of women.
On the much-publicised minimum income guarantee scheme or Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), it said the scheme, which promised to give `72,000 per year to the poorest 20% households, will be launched in phases. There will be a design phase (3 months), followed by a pilot phase (6–9 months) before the actual roll-out and it will cost less than 1% of GDP in first year and less than 2% thereafter. NYAY will be a joint scheme of the centre and states and existing subsidies will continue. The party hasn’t offered much detail as to how it will afford the scheme (cost is estimated at Rs 3.6 lakh crore a year upon full rollout) without dismantling existing subsidies (projected to touch Rs 3.34 lakh crore in FY20) apart from stating that it will be funded through new revenues and expenditure rationalization. However, given that the party has also promised to fill up massive government vacancies, which will raise revenue expenditure, funding the scheme while retaining extant subsidies will strain the centre’s fiscal position dramatically.
“When we started a year ago, I made it clear that nothing in this can be a lie, because we live in a time where we hear a large number of lies every day,” Gandhi said, after releasing the manifesto in the presence of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior party leader P Chidambaram.
The party said it will substantially simplify the GST regime with a single moderate rate of tax, zero rating of exports, and exemption for essential goods and services. It also proposed to give a share of the revenue to panchayats and municipalities.
The Congress promised to lead farmers from “Karz Maafi” (loan waiver), to “Karz Mukti” (freedom from loans) through a combination of measures, including remunerative benchmark prices for crops, lower input costs, and assured access to institutional credit.
The Congress promised to make jobs its top priority, saying it will ensure 34 lakh jobs in the public sector by filling all 4 lakh central government vacancies before March 2020, persuading states to fill 20 lakh vacancies and creating an estimated 10 lakh new Seva Mitra positions in every gram panchayat and urban local bodies. It proposes to launch two programmes to create 1 crore jobs: Water Bodies Restoration Mission; and Wasteland Regeneration Mission.
The manifesto talks about achieving 3% fiscal deficit target by 2020-21 and keeping it under that limit after that. Off-budget borrowings will be faithfully reported, unlike in the current regime, it said.
The Congress also promised to “revitalise” institutions like Reserve Bank of India, Election Commission and CBI, by restoring their autonomy while making them accountable to Parliament.