The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) released its manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls in Mumbai yesterday under the tagline 'Aao Milkar Desh Banaye'. The Sharad Pawar-led party is contesting on 20 seats in Maharashtra, one each in Laskhadweep, Bihar, Odisha, Meghalaya and Manipur.
Among the major promises packed in the manifesto are "a complete loan waiver to all farmers", resuming talks with Pakistan, introducing tax reforms as well as incentives for educating girls, scrapping the Triple Talaq Bill, increasing the minimum carpet area requirement for housing, and ensuring "33 per cent reservation to women in parliament".
"According to figures from various organisations working in rural areas, over 90,000 people have committed suicide in the hinterland, of which majority are farmers. We will provide a complete loan waiver to the small and medium income farmers," NCP general secretary and chief spokesperson DP Tripathi said while releasing the manifesto at the party office in Mumbai. He added that the party's endeavour will be to bring radicalised youth of Kashmir Valley into the mainstream and take stern action against those involved in "brainwashing" them.
On the issue of foreign policy talks the party maintained that talks with Pakistan are important and relevant in the current circumstances. "We will open talks with Pakistan during which we will insist on discussing terrorism," read the manifesto.
"We will continue to be responsive to the newly elected Sheikh Hasina Government. We will work to move Russia away from getting too close to China and Pakistan by frequent high level exchange," the manifesto read, adding, "The reason for the crisis in foreign policy is due to the current Government moving away from the principles set up by our founding Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. We will follow the Panchsheel philosophy which has worked for us well."
In terms of tax reforms the party promised to do away with retroactive taxation as well as the practice of double taxation, which is currently applicable on certain industries, like construction. "We will implement a single rate GST, or maximum of two rates, as modest rates are expected to improve better compliance. We will attempt the 28 per cent slab only for demerit goods which are generally considered as luxury goods," it added.
Another key focus area for the NCP is human resources development. To that end it promised to reinforce the Right to Education Act by increasing the age limit to 18 years. Currently, free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years is a Fundamental Right. Other promises in the manifesto include implementing "100-day guaranteed jobs for graduate youths in urban areas" and "free education for girls from kindergarten to post-graduation".
The NCP also promises to make rapid modernisation and upgradation of armed forces the first priority, including modernising Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and other ordnance factories. "Sacrifices of CRPF and other para military forces will be considered at par with regular military forces," the manifesto said, possibly referring to the big debate over the martyr status, and added that an Ex-Servicemen Commission will be set up.
In the housing space, the manifesto stated that "The criteria of minimum 30 metres for housing is inadequate for Indian families and will be increased to 50 metres to allow the entire family to stay together and prevent migration".
Last but not the least, the party intends to relook at the practice of triple talaq, which the Supreme Court has already made illegal. "Triple Talaq Bill, in its current form without taking the Community into confidence, will be scrapped," read the manifesto.
Given that the NCP is contesting for very few seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha, one could well question how the party intends to implement its manifesto. However, Tripathi is confident that the party will be a part of the next non-BJP government and will influence policy-making.
All eyes are now on the manifestos of the Congress Party and the BJP Party, expected to be released soon.
With PTI inputs