It is raining soaps and promises as the ruling Congress party and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) engage in competitive populism. The two top contenders unleashed a plethora of poll promises and soaps galore for the masses as electioneering for Karnataka general elections on May 12 entered the slog overs, so to speak.
The BJP took its time to craft a manifesto that promised something for every section of the society and pledged to counter corruption in a big way – by strengthening the Lokayuka and announced its focus on the farm sector and the women on its journey to dislodge the Congress from one of its very few major states of Karnataka.
BJP chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa released the BJP vision document that contains a loan waiver scheme for the farmers under which loans of up to Rs 1 lakh taken from cooperative banks and nationalised banks will be waived off.
A week ago, Congress president Rahul Gandhi released the party vision document that promised renewed focus on farmers and farm sector, uplift of women and war against atrocities against women besides accelerating the pace of economic growth and development.
Both parties tried to reach out to the farmers – through their respective vision documents (election manifesto).
Interestingly, none of the top BJP national leaders – Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah or Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who were in Karnataka on electioneering, were present when the BJP manifesto was released.
Gandhi told the people that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had fulfilled 95 per cent of the promises the Congress made in its manifesto five years ago in 2013. Siddaramaiah told media persons in Bangalore on Friday that “I have already fulfilled all the promises made during the last elections. We are going to the people with a development agenda and promise to improve the law and order situation and protection of women from criminals of all hues”.
Predictably and naturally, the Congress and the BJP traded charges against each other and rubbished the manifesto of the rival. But for the record, the BJP vision document promised allocation of Rs 1.5 lakh crore for irrigation projects; farm loan waiver of up to Rs 1 lakh borrowed from nationalised banks and cooperative banks and declared it would bring out a white paper on the financial health of the state.
Then come a list of sops for the poor – gold and money for brides from the BPL category for their marriage and opening of Annapoorna Canteens and a host of steps for the benefit of the people from the weaker sections.
It may be recalled that the Congress has already started Indira Canteens, on the lines of Amma canteens in Tamil Nadu, that have become very popular with the masses.
Cow protection is an issue that the BJP was concerned with and the manifesto said it would revive Go Seva Ayoga that aimed at cow protection.
Jayaprakash Hegde, a former BJP MP, described the manifesto as a pragmatic plan to clean up the mess the Congress had landed the state into with its mega corruption and mismanagement. He said that on the corruption, the Yeddyurappa government will strengthen the Lokayukta and give it more powers to cleanse the system.
BJP MP and Karnataka party unit leader Shobha Karandlaje said the manifesto was a "vision document" which reflected people's aspirations and expectations. She claimed that the party had consulted over three lakh people and experts to come out with the vision document.
“A fantasy” is how Congress president Rahul Gandhi described the BJP vision document as when addressing a rally in Karnataka. The Congress manifesto, Rahul Gandhi said was a document that reflected the voice of the people of Karnataka and not a document prepared by “three or four people in a closed room”.
The Congress vision document promised to create one crore jobs and spend Rs 1.25 lakh crore for irrigating Karnataka over the next five years if elected to power again.
Actually, the Congress government will create an “agricultural corridor” in the state with its 10 different agro-climatic zones and other natural advantages, offering immense opportunities for high growth in agriculture and allied sectors. The focus will be on improving production and productivity, reducing production cost and wastage, increase value addition, price stabilisation, organic farming, integrated pest management and high unit value realisation in export markets.
The Congress promised 50 per cent hike in employability and creation of 15 lakh to 20 lakh jobs a year and also try to raise the employment level of women to 50 per cent in the government.
The women police force would be increased up to 33 per cent with three per cent reservation for transgenders, the Congress document said.
On corruption, the Congress said it would take steps to improve delivery of services and a single window project clearance. Then there are subsidies galore for expanding IT services, start-ups and promised to utilise 80 tmcft additional water in the Cauvery basin. The manifesto contains inputs from every single district, block and community and region of the state.
As against the chief ministerial candidate Yeddyurappa releasing the BJP vision document in the absence of senior party leaders, the Team Congress was very much in evidence – with Rahul Gandhi releasing the document in the presence of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, KPCC president G Parameshwara, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, AICC general secretary in-charge of the state K C Venugopal and former Union minister Veerappa Moily.
The BJP's manifesto under the name 'Namma Karnataka Namma Vachana' not only features a host of sops for women, students, farmers and backward classes but also pushes BJP's core agendas of recommending a ban on PFI, reintroducing prevention of cow slaughter bill 2012 and revival of Bhagyalakshmi scheme.