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Crooked trunk Image courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org
It is a classical case of the pot calling the kettle black. The Congress has accused BJP of copying ideas from its manifesto and other documents. The former has also charged the latter with selective amnesia by stating that BJP has promised certain initiatives in its manifesto that are already under implementation.  
The Congress Party has reportedly trashed the BJP manifesto as “laundry list of disconnected ideas.” Congress Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi accused BJP of being a “copycat”. Mr. Singhvi said the manifesto was “not even a cut-and-paste job”. He even went to the extent of claiming that BJP can be sued for copyright violation. Mr. Singhvi does not perhaps realize that his legal acumen might backfire on this issue. 
If one puts laundry list and copy cat allegations together, the inference one gets is that laundry list of ideas has originated from the Congress documents or rather from its dirty linen!
Take another case of double-edged nature of Congress Party’s dig at BJP Manifesto. 
Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said that BJP's manifesto is a hastily prepared “high school essay” prepared by “lifting” some of the portions from his own speeches and writings. Citing mention about Rurban India in BJP manifesto, he said this is subject on which he wrote 10 years ago.
What Mr. Ramesh forgot to tell the reporters or perhaps does not know that the word and concept Rurban has been in the existence much before he was born! The term was first used in 1918! Any Congress whiz kid can check this fact and also download voluminous literature on Rurban from the cyberspace. 
Mr. Ramesh also labeled BJP as a “party of Kumbhkarnas” and said it promises programmes that are already underway over the past 10 years. 
Any knowledgeable analyst would agree with Mr. Ramesh that some promises listed in the BJP manifesto are already under implementation. The promises should have been properly paraphrased to avoid the risk of sounding ignorant.
Notwithstanding this, the appellation of Kumbhkarans applies more to the Congress whose manifesto also reeks with ignorance and oversight. A case in point is the party’s promises about administrative reforms. 
The Manifesto says: “The Indian National Congress will ensure that the recommendations of the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) are implemented in letter and spirit and monitored at every step.”
It is crude joke on the electorate. The fact is that the UPA Government had announced in 2010-11 its decision to reject several crucial recommendations made by ARC!  The detailed disclosure, which is available on the Net, is contained in the action taken report (ATR) on each specific recommendation made in 12 of the 15 reports submitted by ARC. 
The UPA has, however, till today not made public its decision on the recommendations of the remaining three reports which are the most sensitive and crucial ones. 
The three reports are: ‘Public Order’ report submitted in June 2007, ‘Refurbishing Personnel Administration – Scaling New Heights’ report released in December 2008 and the report titled ‘Combating Terrorism-Protecting by Righteousness’ that was released in June 2008. This shows the lip-service that the Congress pays to administrative reforms. 
The manifestos of both the parties have plenty of good ideas that have remained unimplemented or have been partly implemented. Almost all the ideas about rights and public welfare originate from the Indian constitution. They have been paraphrased and repackaged time and again in different slogans to win votes. Indian constitution’s socialistic ideas and its extended interpretation by the judiciary are not any party’s propriety products. 
The manifestos of both the parties are loaded with unrealistic promises, many of which are open-ended. The issue is not articulation of an idea such as promising jobs or safe drinking water by X, Y or Z party.
The problem lies in the ruling parties’ failure to fulfill their promises. And the Congress Party, being the leader of ruling alliance UPA for last 10 years, is more vulnerable to the charge of failure.
Congress’ accountability for countless failures and missed opportunities is more because it has ruled at the Centre and the States for maximum number of years.
If BJP can be accused of selective amnesia, then the Congress Party can be and must be slammed for its total memory loss as it has failed to mention even once the unfulfilled promises it made in the agenda for UPA-I and agenda for UPA-II. 
The Congress Manifesto, for instance, makes no mention about the aborted or forgotten promises that figured in UPA-I agenda titled National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) that was unveiled in May 2004.
BJP deserves full marks for waking Congress out of its slumber by committing on the issue of healthy Centre-State relations, which NCMP articulated well but the Congress failed to mention it in its 2014 manifesto, leave aside implementing recommendations from a Commission that UPA-I had constituted. 
The Congress Manifesto captioned ‘Your Voice Our Pledge’ has also blacked out the unfulfilled or partly implemented agenda for UPA-II that was announced by the then President Pratibha Devsingh Patil in Parliament in June 2009. 
If all the forgotten, unfilled promises that the Congress has made since the Independence are enumerated, then one would have to coin a new word to describe a medical condition that is worse than complete amnesia.
A promise that cannot be forgotten by the voters is about employment and population. In his famous speech ‘The Next Century’ that late Rajiv Gandhi delivered in the eighties, he stated: “By A. D. 2000 we should be able to ensure for all a minimum of nutrition and health, a minimum level of education, and a productive job for at least one person in every family. By then we must also being (sic) our rate of growth of population under check.”
Mr. Rajiv Gandhi’s vision found echo in The Congress’ 1999 Manifesto said: “We have to create a hundred lakh jobs a year and aim at every family having at least one of its members in regular employment.”
The Party’s 2014 manifesto is silent on this promise of providing one regular job per family. And how does one verify whether the empty promise of creating one crore jobs/year was achieved?
The Party has even watered down its empty promise to create national consensus to provide reservations for jobs for backward castes in the private sector. In its 2004 Manifesto, it had said: “The Congress will create a national consensus on the issue of dalits and adivasis getting a reasonable share of jobs in the private sector. A dialogue with private industry will be initiated to identify how best Indian industry could fulfill in tangible measure the aspirations of youth, especially those belonging to the weaker sections of society.”
In its 2009 Manifesto, it stated: “The Indian National Congress is deeply committed to pursuing affirmative action for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the private sector. It has already initiated a national debate on this issue. It also pledges to carve out a reservation for the economically weaker sections of all communities without prejudice to existing reservations for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and OBCs.”
The 2014 manifesto says: “The Indian National Congress is committed to creating national consensus on affirmative action for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the private sector.”
Mr. Ramesh, Did the legendary Kumbhakaran sleep for 10 years or six months at one go? 
Turn now to population control. The Congress 2014 manifesto grossly underplays the challenge posed by population explosion. It says: “Health and Family Welfare Programmes will be strengthened to achieve a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 2.1 between 2017 and 2020.”
The Congress failure to grapple with this challenge becomes clear when one compares its latest stance with that it took in its 1999 manifesto. In that document, it talked of “drastically reducing the growth in our population - which is the most serious challenge with which we as a nation are confronted.”
The 1999 manifesto had said: “According to present demographic trends, India is expected to reach the critical transition point of a total fertility rate of 2.1 by the year 2026. A generation after this is reached, around 2050, the population would stabilise. There are, however, major state-level variations which must be taken into account in formulating population policy. Thus, Rajasthan is expected to reach the transition point in 2048, Bihar in 2039, Madhya Pradesh beyond 2060 and Uttar Pradesh beyond 2100. The objective of population policy will be to advance the date for the transition point for the country as a whole to 2015.”
The Congress Party’s 2014 manifesto, however, deserves appreciation for incorporating detailed action plan to implement the poll promises during 2014-19 as well as for incorporating 100-day agenda for growth. The BJP manifesto is deficient on this issue. 
Coming to allegation of copying ideas, the Congress can be hauled up more on this count. It is the Congress that has cashed in on the initiatives unveiled by other parties when they were in power. It is the Congress that has renamed initiatives taken by other parties and passed them off to the public as its own giveaways to the public. It is the Congress that lacks the humility to give credit to the other parties for nurturing and developing ideas under which the Congress now basks. 
The notable instances are The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, The Right to Information (RTI) Act and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
The Right to Education was articulated by the ‘Agenda for India’ that was unanimously passed by Parliament in September 1997 on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Independence. The Agenda said: “achievement of the constitutional mandate of universalisation of elementary education be closely monitored; and that universal primary education be achieved by A.D. 2005.”
BJP-led NDA acted on this historic resolution by enacting The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, which paved the way for enactment of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
RTI has a long parliamentary history.  The seeds of RTI were sown in December 1983 when late G. C. Bhattacharya of Democratic Socialist Party moved The Freedom of Information Bill, 1983 in Rajya Sabha. Mr. Bhattacharya’s vision was realized by BJP-led NDA by enactment of the Freedom of Information Act 2002.
UPA repealed and replaced this law with RTI, 2005. Prior to enactment of RTI Act, eight States - Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Goa and Madhya Pradesh had framed their own RTI laws!
If there is a strong case for any copyright violation in legislative domain, RTI is a fit case. 
Similarly, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA) has it origin in The  National  Commission  to  Review   the  Working  of  the  Constitution  (NCRWC), which submitted its report to NDA Government in March 2002.
NCRWC had recommended: “A new article, say article 21-C, may be added to make it obligatory on the State to bring suitable legislation for ensuring the right to rural wage employment for a minimum of eighty days in a year.”
The UPA improved this recommendation to 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to any rural household whose adult members are willing to participate in unskilled manual work. 
Congress’ 2014 Manifesto brags: “At the turn of the millennium, we brought about a “Regime of Rights” marking a paradigm shift in India’s politics and development. Beginning with the Right to Information, Right to Work (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), Right to Education and the Right to Food, we have launched a radical progressive economic and social development discourse.”
It adds: “The charter of minimum socio-economic rights we will put in place includes: a. Right to Health b. Right to Pension c. Right to Homestead or Housing d. Right to Social Security e. Right to Dignity and humane working conditions f. Right to Entrepreneurship that will protect and assist all those who seek to become entrepreneurs.”
On this issue, BJP might accuse the Congress of stealing the intellectual property of the Law Commission. 
The regime of rights mentioned in the Congress Manifesto appears to be ham-handed job of cut and paste from the elaboration of rights by the Law Commission (LC) in its report captioned ‘Need for ameliorating the lot of the have-nots – Supreme Court’s Judgments.’
 Released in April 2009, the report notes: “To make right to life meaningful and effective, the Supreme Court put up expansive interpretation and brought within its ambit a myriad of rights. Various laws have been enacted to eradicate poverty: some of them directly deal with them and some of them indirectly. Nevertheless, their tardy implementation makes us lag behind in effectively dealing with the problem.”
Leaving aside the issue of copycats and amnesia, both the parties should disclose how they intend to finance the implementation of their electoral promises under a specified timeframe.
(published by taxindiaonline.com on 9th April 2014)
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