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OPINION | Riddled with Errors, Congress Manifesto for Delhi Polls 'Documents' Party's Divisions and Dire Straits

Most Congress candidates contesting the February 8 assembly elections are dismayed that the party has failed to put up a credible fight.

Rasheed Kidwai | @rasheedkidwai

Updated:February 5, 2020, 3:27 PM IST
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OPINION | Riddled with Errors, Congress Manifesto for Delhi Polls 'Documents' Party's Divisions and Dire Straits
File photo of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. (Image: PTI)

Despite a last-minute push by Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress story in the Delhi assembly polls appears non-descriptive and fruitless.

Party interim chief Sonia Gandhi was supposed to address a meeting but indications are that she may not even be able to cast her vote on Saturday as doctors at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital reportedly want her to remain there till Monday. Sonia is suffering from a stomach infection. In her absence, Rahul and Priyanka campaigned in some parts of the national capital.

Other than the Gandhis, most of the party's 40-off “star campaigners” have remained indoors, largely because of lack of enthusiasm from nominees. A large number of Congress veterans live in Delhi but only a few have been seen canvassing in their neighbourhoods.

But that is not what ails the Congress in Delhi. A closer look at its election manifesto and election campaign would show several glaring discrepancies. For instance, manifesto point no. 34 reads, “INC will ensure each family living, including tenants and owners in JJ clusters get a flat of 350 sq feet at the same place of their slums.” But in the hoardings, billboards and advertisement, the party is promising 25 sq metres, or 269 sq feet. The manifesto talks about filling language teachers’ vacancies within 100 days (in point no. 42 under 'minorities' heading). The advertisement promises to clear a backlog of 11,000 teachers including language teachers without giving any time frame, of 100 days or six months.

On the issue of clearing loans of those plying three-wheelers and e-rickshaws, the INC advertisement offers to write off the loan if voted to power in Delhi. But the manifesto talks about a one-time gesture of granting subsidy to the owners of such vehicles.

The Congress manifesto point no. 08 plans to spend twenty-five per cent of the city government’s budget (each year) on fighting pollution and improving transport. The advertisement campaign reduces it to twenty per cent.

Factual errors and inconsistencies continue galore. The manifesto promises to procure 15,000 electronic buses, while in advertisements the figure gets reduced to 10,000. Additionally, the ad campaign talks about inducting 50,000 e-rickshaws and taxis, a point omitted in the manifesto.

Congress insiders hold factionalism and one-upmanship responsible for these glaring goof-ups. Informed sources say the differences in manifesto points and publicity material clearly shows differences in manifesto panel that has Ajay Maken and Puja Bahri (daughter of Delhi unit president Subhash Chopra) and publicity group being looked after by AICC’s social media head Rohan Gupta and AICC functionary Manish Chatrath who is vice-president of Delhi congress publicity committee. The number of Congress members in poll-related panels was a whopping 607. Interestingly, the party campaign for the elections is reportedly being managed by Niksun and Golden Rabbit Communications.

The Congress electoral prospects in Delhi appear bleak. But most candidates in the fray are dismayed that the party failed to put up a credible fight. They wonder why the Congress did not present a chief ministerial face from among Ajay Maken, Kapil Sibal, Sandeep Dikshit, AK Walia and several others. There was a lot of hype when cricketer-turned- politician Kirti Azad joined the Congress, but today he has been shooting missives to the leadership pointing at fault lines. Azad has been tight-lipped about the content of his letters, but many in party circles say he is unhappy with Rohan Gupta and a few others.

(The author is a senior journalist. Views expressed are personal.)

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