Manifesto vs manifesto: Distance travelled by BJP, Congress since 2017 in Himachal – The Indian Express

The manifestos of the BJP and Congress for the Himachal Pradesh polls have introduced newer promises and schemes to cater to various voter groups as compared to 2017. While the Congress has strengthened its focus on jobs, the youth, and the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), it has introduced promises such as free electricity up to 300 units. The BJP has vowed to bring in a Uniform Civil Code and a survey of Waqf property, in addition to reiterating its welfare schemes. However, it is silent on the issue of OPS. Both have promised relief to apple farmers, who have been protesting in the state.
A comparison:
BJP, 2017
The BJP manifesto’s main focus was setting up a 24X7 helpline to act against forest mafia, a joint task force to check illegal mining, a ‘Gudia Yojana’ to check crimes against women, women police stations in all districts and a helpline for women’s safety. (The state had been rocked by a rape-and-murder case in Shimla that year, under a Congress government).
Although the party did not promise jobs, it said it would ensure selection of Grade III and IV employees on the basis of merit. It also promised a pension planning committee for consultation with the Central government, a wage disputes redressal committee for problems related to payment of employees, and 80 per cent jobs in industries to locals.
BJP, 2022
In a first for the party in Himachal, but in line with the steps it has taken in other states, the BJP manifesto this time promises to implement a Uniform Civil Code. In Uttarakhand, the newly elected party has already set up a committee to study the feasibility of implementing the code, and in poll-bound Gujarat, it has made the same promise. The party also said that Waqf properties will be studied “to look into the legality of the misuse of such properties”.
The party is silent on the OPS, maintaining that a community would look into the issue.
Reaching out to apple farmers, the BJP has said it would impose a ceiling on GST on materials used in the packaging of apples at 12 per cent and added that additional GST would be paid by the state government. However, no announcement has been made on the Minimum Support Price (MSP) demand of farmers.
Underlining its focus on youths, the party has promised eight lakh jobs to them, plus a tablet and monthly 1GB data to students receiving first class distinction. The manifesto also speaks of pucca road construction in all villages in the state, promises the development of five new medical colleges and the doubling of mobile clinics in every constituency.
This time, the party has released a separate manifesto for women, with promises such as three free LPG cylinders, Rs 500 crore corpus to women entrepreneurs, and bicycles and scooters for girl students. It promised financial aid of Rs 25,000 to all pregnant women. Similarly, it said a Rs 25,000 monthly scholarship would be given to 5,000 women who do exceptionally well in education in the state.
Congress, 2017
Last time, the party promised that the OPS scheme would be restored only for a section of employees depending on their tenure. The party also had women-related promises, like the BJP – providing working women hostels in districts and a marriage grant of Rs 1 lakh for daughters of widows. It said that merit scholarships would be provided to ST students for higher education.
At the time, the Congress also promised to decentralise power to the panchayat level and setting up of a grievance committee for complaints related to corruption. It had farmer-specific proposals for crop protection and interest-free loans up to Rs 1 lakh.
Congress, 2022
The main change this time is the manifesto’s focus on the restoration of the OPS, a key demand of the significant vote bank of about 2.5 lakh government employees in the state.
Catering to the protesting apple farmers in the state who have been raising their pitch against a wide-range of issues, an addition in the manifesto is the promise of a committee to consult apple farmers and decide upon an MSP price for procurement.
Taking a leaf out of AAP’s playbook, the Congress has also announced free electricity of up to 300 units and Rs 1,500 to women between 18 and 60 years of age. On the lines of the pilgrimage policies of the BJP, and in a bid to target the age group over 60, the Congress has promised a free pilgrimage policy to a senior citizen and a family member once in five years.
The Congress has also promised five lakh jobs this time as opposed to the earlier promise of employment to 75,000 youth and 1.50 lakh jobs over a period of five years.
Highlighting its focus on the younger vote bank, it talks of a start-up fund of Rs 680 crore in its manifesto and says it would introduce policies to employ 80% of youngsters in the private sector, along with 1 lakh jobs to youths in the first cabinet meeting if voted to power.
Separately, it has released a charge sheet highlighting the police recruitment scam in March, when question papers were leaked, as well as the alleged corruption in PPE procurement during Covid-19.
The party has also targeted the dairy industry and has promised to buy 10 kg of milk from farmers and to provide subsidies to support the purchase of four cows per family, among others.
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