Congress waves 100 mn new jobs, reservation plank for votes

New Delhi, March 26: Asserting that its 10 years of governance had given India its highest economic growth, the Congress party Wednesday promised to return to that path in three years with a focus on manufacturing, stable prices, 100 million new jobs and a debate on affirmative action in private firms if re-elected.

With economic issues high on the agenda, the grand old party in its 48-page election manifesto released here also promised other steps like a clear taxation policy, right to health, $1 trillion spend on infrastructure, and better service delivery with a check on graft.

“We envision an inclusive society, a rapidly-expanding economy in which growth benefits all sections of our society. We want to generate lot more new jobs to provide for the youth,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a press conference to release the document.

The party claimed credit for an average growth of 7.5 percent during the two tenures of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government, which it led, against 5.9 percent during the previous regime of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The document also included a 100-day plan for the Congress if re-elected to power, which promised a pan-India goods and services tax, a new tax regime and a clear policy on the much-detested issue of taxing foreign firms on domestic mergers and buy-outs.

Seeking to address the youth, while acknowledging that two-thirds of Indians were today below 35 years of age, the party also promised them well-paying, decent jobs with skill upgradation and creation of more community colleges and industrial training institutes.

“The Indian National Congress believes youth is our biggest asset,” said the document that was also jointly released by party president Sonia Gandhi and her son and vice president Rahul Gandhi, who is heading the election campaign.

“We spent more than Rs.90,000 crore across various schemes for the youth and we will only increase this,” promised the document, detailing its action plan for this group under several categories and sub-categories.

While not committing itself to job reservations for socially deprived in non-government firms, it said: “Indian National Congress is committed to creating a national consensus on affirmative action for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the private sector.”

This was promised in its manifestoes for both the 2004 and 2009 elections.

Also promised is encouragement to foreign capital, focus on farm production, exports and education, right to health, better service delivery, elimination of graft, uninterrupted power supply, focused subsidy, regulatory reforms and a bank account for every citizen.

“The Indian National Congress will increase health expenditure to 3 percent of GDP and provide universal, quality healthcare to all Indians,” said the manifesto, adding its spending on this subject had jumped five times in the past 10 years to Rs.36,322 crore.

Rahul Gandhi said the manifesto reflected people’s voice and his party will deliver on it.

“We held several interactions with people across the country. We met coolies, farmers, tribals, labourers, women. Whatever they told us has been included in the manifesto. We assure that we will deliver on our promises,” he said.

Key elements of the manifesto:

-Eight percent growth in three years to be sustained over the next two decades.

-Consensus for job reservations in private sector for socially deprived.

-Agenda in 100 days for 100 million new jobs.

-Encourage public-private partnership for greater farm productivity and exports.

-Incentives for push private investment.

-Zero aversion to foreign investment.

-Direct tax code and pan-India goods and services.

-Strengthen public sector in key areas, including infrastructure

-Help state-run firms become global enterprises.

-Deepen competition, both domestic and external.

-Reforms to expand tax base, improve compliance and make administration friendlier.