At a public rally in this town, the party's national head, Rahul Gandhi, said the Congress truly believed in 12th century Lingayat philosopher Basavanna’s teaching of ‘Nudidanta nade' or honour the promise you make. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) indulged only in the symbolism of garlanding his statues and was yet to come true on the commitments made in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll.
Gandhi lauded Siddaramaiah’s social welfare schemes, particularly Anna Bhagya, which has provided free foodgrain to 35 million people and is a major poll plank. Both Gandhi and the CM accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “hypocrisy” for talking of corruption in Karnataka but having B S Yeddyurappa as its CM-candidate and giving nominations to the Reddy brothers of Ballari and other tainted leaders.
The Congress manifesto promises insurance for owners of micro, small and medium enterprises, one water tap in every urban household, 50 per cent subsidy for women to purchase ‘women friendly’ scooters, free sanitary pads and an endeavour to have 50 per cent reservation for women in government jobs.
The focus of the manifesto is on plans to foster job growth, particularly as the party has criticised the Modi government for failing to deliver on a reported promise of creating 20 million jobs yearly.
It said a Congress government in Karnataka will try to create 1.5-2 mn jobs a year. And, that the Siddaramaiah government had created 5.3 mn jobs in the past five years.
The manifesto said Karnataka would have 20,000 information technology (IT) start-ups in the next five years, of which 5,000 would be supported by venture capital. Tourism would contribute 20 per cent to the state's gross domestic product (SGDP). The government would work to expand the IT sector so that it contributed 25 per cent to SGDP. Also, it promises a Rs 10-mn subsidy for each start-up, with Rs 2.5 mn as a soft loan and the rest at six per cent annual interest.
The manifesto said a Congress government would build 300,000 houses in urban areas and a million in rural areas annually in the next five years. It said the government had got constructed 1.17 mn houses in five years.
With Karnataka having faced successive droughts, the manifesto promised to spend substantially on irrigation.
It criticises the BJP for “overt and covert assault” on pluralism. The manifesto said the Congress’ economic and social policies are guided by the examples of Basavanna, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, B R Ambedkar, Sardar Patel, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Devaraj Urs and Manmohan Singh.