Congress promises 5% cess on richest 1% Indians, if voted to power

Congress president Rahul Gandhi speaking at 84th Plenary session of Indian National Congress in New Delhi: BS Photo by Sanjay K Sharma
The Congress party on Saturday said its government at the Centre would set up a ‘national poverty alleviation fund’ and impose a 5 per cent cess on the incomes of the top 1 per cent richest Indians. It said it would increase average earnings as part of the rural employment guarantee scheme from the existing Rs 7,200 to Rs 18,000 per year, bring a farm loan waiver scheme, and give interest-free loans to sharecroppers, tenant farmers and farmers owning up to two hectares of land.

At the party’s 84th plenary session, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh presented a resolution on ‘agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation’, which criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s “flawed and deliberate anti-farmer policies” and said the crop insurance scheme has only benefitted insurance companies. He said it will recast the PM crop insurance scheme, which will benefit farmers rather than profiteering private insurance companies. The Congress promised to set up a permanent ‘farmers and farm labour welfare commission’ to guarantee social security to farmers in old age.

In its political resolution, the Congress party said it will adopt a pragmatic approach for cooperation with all like-minded parties, and evolve a common workable programme to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the 2019 elections. The Congress demanded that the Election Commission junk the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and revert to paper ballots, and termed the proposal to hold ‘simultaneous elections’ as not only incompatible with the Constitution but also impractical. The highlight of the second day of the three-day plenary session of the Congress party, being held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium here, was former Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s criticism of Modi. In her speech at the plenary, Sonia Gandhi said: "The slogans of 'sab ka saath, sab ka vikas' and 'na khaoonga, na khaane doonga' are only and only dramebazi (drama) and a trick to grab power.”

She said that the Congress was fighting the tyrannical Modi government and the people had begun to realise that the promises made by the BJP in 2014 were hollow. She asked Congress workers and leaders to extend support to new party chief, and her son, Rahul Gandhi, who had taken over the reins in “such difficult times”.

The resolution on agriculture promised farm loan waiver and stated that the party intended to provide interest-free loans to cover input costs to tenant farmers, sharecroppers and farmers owning and cultivating up to two hectares of land, as done by the Congress governments in Rajasthan and Haryana. 

The resolution said the Congress resolves to review the methodology used by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices to determine the minimum support price (MSP) to guarantee remunerative income to the farmers, factoring all relevant input costs, including warehousing and transportation. It said the party will expand the MSP regime to other crops and forest produce of tribal community. It said the fund created from 5 per cent cess on the richest 1 per cent Indians would be used for education scholarships to students, SC, ST and the poor.

On the subject of employment generation, the resolution expressed concern at the prospect of the sector set to lose 600,000 jobs over the next three years. It said it would facilitate setting up of an IT skill upgradation fund. The Congress said it would renew focus on manpower-intensive manufacturing for domestic and export sectors, and create a system of reporting and analysis of real-time job data to ensure that timely steps can be taken to fix problems.

In his brief speech, Rahul Gandhi said the country was "fatigued" with the Modi government. It said the people wanted to see the back of the current government, which is busy spreading hatred and anger, and failing to create jobs and address farm distress. The Congress party alone can unite the country and show it the path forward, he added.

The Congress chief said the party under him would take the seniors and the youth together. “If the youth will take the Congress party forward, the party will not move forward without the experienced leaders. So, my task is to unite the seniors and the youth, to give a new direction,” he said.

In his address to the plenary, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah the Karnataka state Assembly elections will see a “secularism versus communalism" contest and the Congress will emerge victorious. He said the poll results will work as a “stepping stone” for the 2019 general elections. The Karnataka polls are slated for April/May.

‘No one can stop Rahul Gandhi (Congress president) from becoming the country’s prime minister after the next general polls,” Siddaramaiah said. He spoke at length on the welfare programmes undertaken in Karnataka.

Congress leaders, particularly Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken, asked workers and leaders to sink their differences to unitedly fight the BJP. “Only the Congress can defeat the Congress and not anyone else,” Kharge said. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said that “Hindutva is not Hinduism” and “we must not surrender the Hindu space to the BJP”.

The political resolution of the party demanded effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act. It spoke of the need for a probe in the purchase of the Rafale fighter jets, underlined how allegations against BJP ministers have not been investigated and demanded action in the Punjab National Bank fraud case.

“There is a nexus between the BJP and those who have amassed wealth through corruption and generation of black money. This is evident from the BJP’s access to unprecedented resources and money, which is brazenly on display in every election and rallies of the party,” the political resolution said.

The resolution also condemned the “neglect and injustice” to Andhra Pradesh by the Modi government. It demanded complete implementation of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act and special category status to Andhra Pradesh.

The resolution on agriculture said the Congress plans to have a network of food parks and special agriculture zones. It said the party will carry out a comprehensive review of import duties for agricultural commodities to ensure the interests of farmers are protected.