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Congress party promises minority protection, jobs
Published on: Saturday, April 06, 2024
By: Bernama
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Congress party promises minority protection, jobs
Congress President Mallikarkun Kharge with senior party leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, and KC Venugopal release the party’s manifesto ahead of Lok Sabha elections in New Delhi on April 5.
NEW DELHI: India’s main opposition party Congress vowed Friday to protect minorities—generally seen as a reference to the country’s Muslims—while accelerating growth and jobs in a manifesto for an election it is widely expected to lose.

Nearly a billion Indians will vote to elect a new government in six-week-long parliamentary elections starting on April 19, the largest democratic exercise in the world.

Many analysts see Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election under his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) banner as a foregone conclusion.

Congress led India’s independence struggle and dominated politics for most of the next seven decades but its secularist vision has since struggled against the BJP’s appeal to members of India’s majority faith.

In its manifesto, Congress promised to protect “linguistic and religious minorities”.

“The plurality of religions represents the history of India,” it said. “History cannot be altered.”

India has a long and grim history of sectarian clashes between the country’s Hindu majority and Muslims, its biggest minority faith with 200 million members.

Party leader Rahul Gandhi—the son, grandson and great-grandson of Prime Ministers—said the upcoming election was “fundamentally different” from any other in India’s history.

“It is between those who want to end India’s constitution and democracy and those who want to save it,” he said.

The Congress manifesto, titled a “justice document”, offered “concrete guarantees unlike Modi’s empty promises”, said lawmaker and lead author P Chidambaram.

The party has promised to address India’s “massive unemployment” on a “war footing”, adding that it would earmark half of all government jobs for women.

Young people voted for Modi in droves when he was first elected a decade ago after he said he would create 10 million jobs a year.

But a recent International Labour Organization (ILO) report warned that India was hamstrung by a “grim” crisis, with unemployment on the rise.

Congress proposed an unconditional annual cash transfer of Rs 100,000 ($1,200) “to every poor Indian family”, without precisely defining who would qualify. The BJP is yet to publish its own manifesto. 

And, police in India’s northeastern state of Assam have seized 21 kg of heroin worth over US$25 million, officials said Friday.

The recovery described as the “biggest-ever drug haul” in the state has been made from a vehicle that entered from neighbouring Mizoram.

According to police, the vehicle was intercepted on Thursday evening in Cachar district on specific intelligence information.

The driver was arrested and taken into custody for investigations.

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