M A I N   N E W S

Rahul trashes opinion polls, sees UPA-III
Cong releases manifesto Sonia, Manmohan attack Modi, say BJP balloon will burst
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
Less than a fortnight to go for the Lok Sabha elections starting April 7, the Congress today went all out against BJP’s “divisive” ideology, predicting another UPA win and trashing all opinion polls favouring the BJP.

“The BJP balloon will burst and most certainly in Uttar Pradesh,” said party vice president Rahul Gandhi. For the first time, Rahul shared the dais with party chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the party released its manifesto. Rahul also led the charge against BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi, with his mother Sonia and Manmohan Singh supporting him effusively. Dismissing a Modi wave, Rahul said: “In 2009, the opinion polls gave us five seats in UP. The results surprised you then. The results will surprise you even now. Modi is an individual who represents an exclusionary ideology, which we will fight and defeat.”

Rahul’s assertions were met with applause from Congress leaders who occupied an enclosure far away from the media’s. It was one of the feeble rounds of applause one heard at the party headquarters, where the atmosphere lacked enthusiasm, reminding one of 2009. To a Tribune query on what she thought of opinion polls, Sonia said, “I don’t have faith in them. These surveys said in 2004 that the Congress story was over. We returned with a wider mandate in 2009. The Congress story continued. I am quite confident we will win.”

Earlier Sonia, without naming Modi, painted him as a highly polarizing figure when she said the 2014 battle would be fought not just on the promise of development but also on safeguarding India’s constitutional ethos. Her reference was to Modi whose so-called “divisionary” style Congress manifesto widely acknowledges when it says that the choice this time is between “those who respond to issues by lighting the fires of communal hatred and those who respond democratically.”

The Prime Minister too backed this thought when he slammed the BJP for constantly targeting him on corruption. Defending the UPA’s 10-year record, he said, “The BJP attacked me because they felt I was a weak Prime Minister who will run away under their constant criticism. I did not run away and proved them wrong. As for corruption, it can’t be wished away in developing economies. Our government did a lot to root out its tendencies. The next UPA government will further overcome corruption.”

Rahul too backed Prime Minister’s famous recent one-liner: “Modi will be a disastrous Prime Minister”. “PM is a very wise man and on most issues I bow to his wisdom…” is what Rahul said when asked if he concurred with what the Prime Minister said on Modi.

The Prime Minister for his part appeared frail today, fumbling on occasions, and conscious of his exit having earlier said that he was not in the race for the top slot were the UPA to return to power.

He must have clearly missed his March 24, 2009 moment in the sun when Sonia, responding to who would lead UPA if elected, hid her photograph on the Congress manifesto cover, letting that of Singh shine.

Today on the Congress manifesto cover, Rahul was the central figure.

congress vision for next 5 years

Rights regime: 5 new rights (health, pension, housing, social security, dignity, entrepreneurship) to take 80 crore Indians above poverty line but below middle class into middle class

100-day agenda for growth, jobs: Return to 8% plus growth in 3 years; pass Goods and Services Tax and Direct Taxes Code Bill in Parliament in a year; launch agenda for 100 m jobs for youth

Manufacturing: 10% growth rate in manufacturing; raise investment rate to 38%; inject over one trillion dollar in 10 years in infrastructure

FDI: Push FDI in labour intensive sectors; no room for FDI aversion

Anti-corruption: Pass all pending anti-graft laws: Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Officials, Judicial Appointments Bill, Right to Time Bound Delivery of Service Bill, etc.

Black money: Special envoy to pursue agenda to bring back black money stashed abroad

Business: Improve India’s rank from 134 to 75 in 5 years

Banking: Accounts for all in 5 yrs; broadband connectivity for all villages in 18 months

Health: Bill for Universal Health Coverage; Public spending on health at 3 pc GDP

SCs/STs: Create national consensus on affirmative action for private sector jobs for SCs/STs; no legal framework proposed

Women: Citizens Charter for Women’s Safety’ 25 pc law enforcement agency jobs to go to women (down from 50 pc earlier proposed); one stop crisis centres to help victims of rape/domestic abuse in all hospitals

Youth: Implement National youth Policy

Defence: Ensure process of procuring finest equipment carried out transparently and efficiently

Education: Move from Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to Shreshtha Shiksha Abhiyan to stress quality

Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP spokespersonDocument of deceit: BJP

It is a document of deceit and an insult to the people of India... The entire manifesto appears to be devoid of credibility and lacking seriousness

Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP spokesperson





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