New Delhi: Looking for a 'Congress Gujarat', the grand old party released its manifesto for the high-voltage state assembly election, which is being seen as its first major test of popularity for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Like BJP, Congress has also hanged tough on sweetening every section of voters.
The manifesto released by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit promises implementation of the Sachar Committee report, which advocates more facilities for Muslims. It also talks formation of minority commision, Gujarat State Minority Education Institute Commission, Financial debvelopment Coorporation for welfare of Muslims and 100 per cent scholarship for minority students pursuing technical courses besides MBA and MCA.
Aiming to break its nearly 17 year sabbatical from power in the state, the manifesto also promises to make diesel, petrol, LPG, pipeline gas connections cheaper, 16-hour power connection against 8 hours at present and fastest power connections to propitiate every political party's favourite 'mango man', aka aam aadmi.
Taking a cue from Chief Minister Narendra Modi who is leaving no effor missed to cheer the young vote bank, the Congress also announced a slew of sops for younger generation.
Its manifesto promises free tablets to Class 10 and laptops to Class 12 passed students, strict implementation of right to education act, formation of news industrial technical institues, skilled training for education youth, creation of science schools, reservation to poor students in private schools, scholarship for below middle class students in IIM, IIT and NID, cheaper textbooks, jobs for sportspersons, new sports academies, and new schools on the lines of international standards. The Congress has also guaranteed formation of a panel for the formulation of a vivrant youth policy for the state.
For women, Congress' pandora's box has 50 per cent reservation in local body elections.
The manifesto on the lines of a 'New Gujarat, also promises special sops to drought-hit farmers in Kutch and Saurashtra or Kathiwar region comprising the south western part of Gujarat -- Rajkot, Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Amreli, Surendranagar, and some portions of Ahmedabad district.
Modi has already announced irrigation for 'rainless' Saurashtra.
The Congress has promised Dalit, tribal and nomadic communities that it would strictly implement PESA and Forest Rights Act, revival of 16 welfare plans under social welfare and enpowernment, autonomous state for Scheduled Caste Economic Development Corporation, formation of state level Scheduled caste Commission, new hostels for Dalit students and power even in the scattered homes in tribal areas, among other things.
The manifesto also promises zero slums, irrigation, filling vacant government posts, irrigation, Green Gujarat, all-round development, satellite townships, new dams, low-cost treament for kidney and cancer patients in government hospitals, solar street lights, jobs for differently-abled students, labour laws, fixed pay for government staff, new fishing harbours, affordable houses for fishermen, malnutrition, promotion of gram panchayats and aganwadis, special sops for BPL families, VAT exemption up to Rs 50,000 for traders, among other things.
Addressing a press conference, Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modhwadia said: "Our manifesto aims to restore our lost fortunes in the state. We will not have Tatas, Birlas and Satyams, we will create a state for aam Gujarat."
"At present, Secretariat only welcome high-end people, but we will open the doors for aam aadmi... We promise an exploitation-free tenure."
"Modi has transferred all resources to his favourite bussiness tycoons... that's the reason they keep harping praises on Gujarat CM," he alleged.
Inveighing Modi for 'stealing its ghar nu ghar scheme', he said: "We have already got 50,000 samples and also prepared the model... We will also release a document next few days on how the houses will look like.
Dikshit said: "Our manifesto is always pro-people. BJP has been in power for 17 years... the state has been on a decline. When we were in power, the growth was 40%. Modi's growth is only 10%..."
"We don't have to learn from Modi, he needs to learn from my government in Delhi. We don't believe in blowing our own trumpet," she roared.
She said: "When the BJP government could not even implement sixth pay commission and invest in health sector, how can he talk of development."
"See the development in Delhi....See the health facilities there... Even people from neighbouring areas like UP come for treatment to the national capital," she said.
Denouncing the BJP government for taking credit for centrally-sponsored schemes, she said the Gujarat government is ''befooling" the people by placing the CM's picture on state highways development by the UPA government.
"I invite you to come to Delhi. You will get 24-hour power. Have come to Ahmedabad after 8 years. It is not the same it used to be. Look at my state, it also doesn't look the same, but this is due to development. I am doing to make Delhi a global township," said Dikshit, who looked a bit unprepared and quoted some incorrect facts on per capita income and was corrected by Gujarat Congress chief thrice.
She also slammed the media for being 'pro Modi', saying, "Whatever he says doesn't become a news. Even if a small party leader endorses him for PM, you guys keep showing it the whole day."
Photo courtesy: Ankur Tewari