24 Mar : Releasing the Congress manifesto for 2009 Lok Sabha polls along with party President Sonia Gandhi, PM Manmohan Singh came down heavily on opposition BJP, accusing it of dividing the people on the basis of communal agenda.
Released by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the AICC office in New Delhi on Tuesday, the manifesto promises to bring inclusive growth, maximum possible security to each and every citizen, enactment of Right to Food law, health security for all and connecting all villages by a broadband network in three years.
With national security becoming an election issue, Congress promised to ensure for the highest level of defence preparedness and speed up the process of police reforms.
Stating that NREGA, as a flagship programme of the government, has received accolades, the manifesto said the party would take the scheme forward and promised to ensure comprehensive social security to those at special risk.
The 21-page manifesto also said quality education would be made affordable to all, while implementing a nation wide skill development programme, improving the well being of farmers and their families and democratising the functioning of the cooperatives.
The manifesto also said the party will endeavour to fight communalism of all kinds, make the elected panchayat institutions financially strong, give special focus to the small entrepreneurs and medium enterprises and will maintain the path of high growth with fiscal prudence and low inflation if voted to power again.
Other promises of the party include introduction of goods and services tax from 1st April 2010, giving a completely new look to urban governance, a new deal to the youth to participate in governance, protect the country’s natural environment and take steps to rejuvenate it and carry out a massive renewal of science and technology infrastructure.
Congress also promised to pursue judicial reforms to cut delay in courts and take further steps to preserve and promote cultural heritage.
In foreign policy, the manifesto promised to continue an independent, pro-India foreign policy and also pledged to intensify involvement of overseas Indians in development.
With the Third Front, comprising of regional parties, posing a challenge to the Congress led UPA, the party promised to continue its policy of being sensitive to the regional aspirations.
"The Indian National Congress seeks a fresh mandate on the basis of its core values and ideology — secularism, nationalism, social justice and economic growth for all, especially for the aam aadmi," the manifesto said.
It said the party was seeking a fresh mandate on the basis of its heritage, record of service and vision for the future."The INC is the only party which believes that economic growth and communal harmony, and economic growth and social justice, are two sides of the same coin and must always go hand in hand," it said.
The manifesto also claimed that Congress is the only party that combines experience and youth, wisdom and exuberance, achievements and ambition.
Interestingly, the manifesto has photographs of only Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi on the cover and the slogan "Aam aadmi ke badhte kadam, har kadam par bharat buland".
Promising for a faster and more inclusive growth, the party document said it was fully aware that the world economy faces the worst crisis in 50 years but said the Indian economy has shown resilience due to the policies of successive Congress governments.
PM hits back at Advani, questions his contribution to nation
In a stinging attack on senior BJP leader L K Advani, PM Manmohan Singh said he had played a "prominent role" in the Babri Masjid demolition, presided over Gujarat riots and failed to prevent terror attacks on Parliament and Red Fort as Home Minister.
Upset by Advani’s allegations that he is a "weak" Prime Minister, Singh hit back by questioning the BJP leader’s contribution to the welfare of the country as Home Minister and said the electorate should decide whether Advani should lead the nation.
He also accused Advani of being "opportunist" while praising Pakistan founder M A Jinnah during his visit to Pakistan four years back.
"Whether I am a weak or a strong Prime Minister, actions of our government speak volumes about it," Singh told reporters while releasing the Congress manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections at New Delhi on Tuesday.
Noting that Advani keeps on making this charge, Singh referred to Babri Masjid demolition, terror attacks that took place during previous NDA government and hijacking of Indian Airlines plane while reminding BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate about his performance.
While recounting Advani’s record as the Home Minister, Singh said "the country must decide whether this person (Advani) is fit to be the Prime Minister."
The Prime Minister said Advani had played a "prominent role in destruction of Babri Mosque."
"What else has he (Advani) contributed to the national welfare? When he was the Home Minister, attack on Parliament took place, troops were mobilised for 12 months (on the border) and withdrawn without any reason resulting in losses to the tune of crores of rupees, Red Fort was attacked, plane was hijacked and terrorists were rewarded," the Prime Minister recalled.
Singh also said that Advani, as Home Minister, had "presided over massacres in Gujarat (in 2002)."
The Prime Minister said while Advani "led the communal forces, he was opportunist enough when he visited Pakistan and suddenly discovered new virtues of Jinnah that he was a secular man."
Singh took a dig at Advani for what he faced from his party on his return from Pakistan.
"The party disowned him at the behest of masters in RSS when he came back. So whether Advani is strong man or weak man, let the records speak for themselves," he added.