Highlights

  • Decoding Congress' manifesto for Himachal Pradesh elections
  • Comparison of Congress' 2022 manifesto with 2017 promises
  • Himachal Pradesh represents ray of hope for struggling Congress

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Congress' 10 promises: 2017 versus 2022 | Himachal Pradesh election manifesto

As India's oldest political party struggles for survival, Himachal Pradesh might represent a ray of hope. It is one of the few states where the Congress has not been upstaged by a regional party.

As India's oldest political party struggles for survival, Himachal Pradesh might represent a ray of hope. It is one of the few states where the Congress has not been upstaged by a regional party. Additionally, the people of the hill state prefer a new party in power every 5 years.

So, let's take a look at what the Congress is promising to the people of Himachal this time, and how the guarantees have changed from 5 years ago, when the party got voted out of power.

For women voters, Congress appears to have changed its strategy. In 2017, the party promised to build hostels for working women, and provide a ₹1 lakh grant for the wedding of daughters of widows. This time, the Congress is offering freebies and cash handouts. These include free electricity up to 300 units per month for all households, and ₹1,500 every month for women aged between 18 and 60 years.

ALSO WATCH | BJP's 10 promises: 2017 versus 2022 | Himachal Pradesh election manifesto

A promise of more employment opportunities is a staple of every manifesto by every party in every election. Last time, the Congress said that it would create 1.5 lakh new jobs, and also appoint staff in new state schools and colleges. This time, the party is saying it will create 1 lakh new jobs, and also set up a Recruitment Board to ensure that hiring takes place within 6 months of advertisement of the posts.

The Congress is trying hard to win the favour of government employees, which numbered around 3 lakh at the time of the last elections. Last time, the party promised to restore the pre-2004 pension scheme. It also said that government employees would get additional increments after their 4th, 9th, and 14th year in service. This time again, the Congress is saying that it will restore the old pension scheme. It will also clear arrears of government employees, and reverse transfers done by the BJP government to allegedly harass officials.

For the youth of Himachal, the party in 2017 promised private bus permits for self-employment opportunities. It had also said that it would increase the unemployment allowance from ₹1,000 to ₹1,500. This year, the Congress has said that its government would set up a ₹680 crore startup fund. Youth would also get interest-free loans. Cheap loans would be provided to cab drivers.

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Students do not appear to be high on the priority list this year. Last time, the promises included distributing 50,000 laptops with 1GB free data to students, and also scholarships for Scheduled Caste students. This time, the Congress has said it will set up a Youth Commission to look into issues related to education and employment.

For farmers, the party in 2017 said that it would ensure interest-free loans up to ₹1 lakh. It also promised a 90% subsidy on anti-hail nets to protect crops. This year, the manifesto includes a vow to fix minimum procurement prices of fruits, including apples, in consultation with farmers.

In a time of high inflation, parties place special emphasis on vulnerable groups during campaigns. In 2017, the Congress promised a ₹1,300 old-age pension, and increasing the daily wage under MNREGA to ₹350. It had also promised to continue food subsidy amid price rise. This year, the promises include a hike in the old-age pension, a special social security pension for people aged 75+, and also a pension for journalists.

Crime and corruption in the hill state have been a matter of heated debate between the BJP and Congress. In 2017, the Congress had said that it would appoint an anti-corruption grievances commissioner. It had also promised a stricter law to deal with animal attacks on humans. Congress also said that it would speak to the Central government regarding the One Rank One Pension issue. This time, the party is promising a new anti-drug enforcement agency led by a judge, and also lower gun license fees.

Under the miscellaneous development agenda, the party had said in 2017 that it would acquire land at 4 times the market value. This time, Congress is promising mobile health clinic services in every village.

Protests by contractual workers demanding regularisation are common in many parts of India. To address this, the Congress had said in 2017 that it would regularise services of contract workers after 2 years, and daily wagers after 3 years. This time, the party is repeating the promise of regularising contractual staff within 2 years.

Despite the importance of these polls, the Congress is currently struggling with internal tension in its Himachal unit, mainly since the death of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. Additionally, one of the party's biggest faces - Rahul Gandhi - is busy with the Bharat Jodo Yatra in southern India. This election season is also Mallikarjun Kharge's first test since becoming the president of the party.

A good performance in state elections ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls is important for the Congress to maintain its relevance even as other Opposition parties increasingly question its ability to counter the BJP.

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