Manifesto? Meh!
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Manifesto? Meh!

May 6, 2023

Every year on the 25th of January, the Election Commission of India (ECI) releases advertisements asking voters to take a pledge which is to be an honest voter. That elaborate pledge seems redundant as I watch the caste and cash politics being played out before us.

This year, the Election Commission has stated that there has been a seven-fold increase in illegal election spending compared to 2018.

This election, alcohol distribution has surged more than 51 times while narcotics distribution has risen more than 18 times.

Where is all this money to buy votes coming from? Very simple: Steal from the ‘tax-paying Peter’ to pay ‘vote-selling Paul.’

Sadly, Income Tax-paying salaried middle-class don’t mind being exploited. If tax-payers read the manifestos, they will realise the absurdity of some schemes and how their money is being spent.

But before you read the manifesto, if you have a weak heart, please keep a defibrillator and someone who knows how to use it next to you; the promises in the manifesto are that shocking.

Within minutes of starting to read the BJP manifesto, I had to hold my chest. The BJP manifesto states that it will make Karnataka so prosperous that it will be like the Vijayanagar Empire, where rubies were sold on the streets! Additionally, it plans to make Karnataka a 1 trillion-dollar economy by 2031!

Their names of schemes are grand. One is called ‘Mission Wodeyar.’ It has a fund allocation of Rs. 3,000 crore and its mission is to desilt 17 rivers and 500 lakes and create aquafarms.

Then there is the Puneeth Rajkumar Film City in Mysuru. There is a mission to connect Karnataka, under which Mysuru will get metro rail! And the best part is — exemption of registration and road tax for electric vehicles! All good, but will it happen?

The BJP, as expected, has promised implementation of the Uniform Civil Code and a new Police wing called — Karnataka State Wing against Religious Fundamentalism and Terror (K-SWIFT).

Speaking of K-SWIFT, they have another ‘K’ scheme: The BJP has promised a ‘K-Agri Fund’ to establish micro-cold storage and other initiatives. The budget for these ‘other initiatives’ is Rs. 30,000 crore.

Then, there is the pilgrimage grant of Rs. 25,000 and the promise of forming a committee to bring autonomy to temples. We wonder what stopped them from doing it in the last couple of years when they were in power. As usual, it is loaded with social schemes from free rice to loan waiver.

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The Congress’ early promise in its manifesto is “to abolish corruption in public works and create a transparent system.” I found myself holding my chest again.

Then they promise to invest Rs. 50,000 crore over 5 years to improve facilities in villages. What facilities? They want to provide toilets, water, health, education and roads!

What have all the parties been doing for the last 75 years if basic necessities — clean water, toilet, health, education and roads — are still on a manifesto in 2023?!

For women, there is the promise of Rs. 2,000 per month to every woman head of the family and free bus travel for women throughout the State. There is also an interest-free loan for women to buy two cows.

Interestingly, the party has also promised to establish ‘manure’ centres where the Government will buy cow-dung for Rs. 3 per kg!

Then there is the ‘Yuva Nidhi’ scheme, where Congress has promised to give Rs. 3,000 per month for unemployed graduates and Rs. 1,500 a month for unemployed diploma holders for 2 years!

What kind of illogical scheme is this in the name of social security? Instead of investing in job creation by helping industries with KIADB land and easing interest rates so youths are not jobless, the plan is to dole out pocket money?

The Karnataka tax-payer may end up paying for the salary of party workers instead. Doesn’t Congress know that we have a vast unregulated economy where people are paid in cash which means youngsters will collect their salary in cash and also collect this Government dole out?

Political parties have a bad habit of giving fish instead of teaching people how to fish. This is their way of making people forever dependent on them.

Two interesting projects that baffle us in the Congress manifesto are, first the plan to spend Rs. 40 crore for a Kashmir Cultural Centre!

Surprisingly, while it is allocating Rs. 40 crore for Kashmir Cultural Centre, for the few people from a faraway State, they have allocated just Rs. 1 crore each for Kodava, Konkani and Beary communities who are Kannadigas!

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Second, is Congress’ plan to create a separate Ministry for Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Kannadigas!

This Ministry, they say, will have a revolving fund of Rs. 1,000 crore. For what? Well, to help NRI Kannadiga entrepreneurs set up shop in Karnataka and also help NRIs who want to return home! What kind of scheme is this? Why must we poorer cousins pay for the relocation of the rich NRIs?!

The JD(S), too, speaks of the work done by the father of their party, H.D. Deve Gowda and sons, and it promises very similar schemes to the other two, albeit a more farmer-inclined one.

Conversely, the AAP is short and shallow, like the mock manifesto framed by a high school civics student. The manifesto is one page. Just 10 categories with around 5 promises under each. THE END. No grand pretentious schemes and no umpteen schemes. That’s alright, but there are no details and that’s not how a ‘national’ party’s manifesto should read.

Congress has the most elaborate manifesto of all the parties with micro-level attention. But they are also the party that has really over-promised. It seems like they wanted to fulfil every citizen’s wish, from a farmer to a gig-economy worker to a wannabe Kannada poet to an NRI.

The 2023 manifestos show that none of the parties has thought it through. They are not sure how much they will spend on what and why. There is no prioritisation at all. Most schemes seem to be designed for appeasement and ROI — Return On Investment — to get 10-fold the money they spent to win elections.

When most voters are prejudiced because of their religion and opportunism, when most votes today are cash and carry, manifestos are almost irrelevant.

This being the case, there is very little that the Election Commission can do. But for now, it can try to frame rules to force the urban voter to the voting booth instead of a toll booth as they make their way to the Expressway for a holiday on the Election Day.

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