With barely a week to go for the Haryana Assembly elections, major political parties have released their manifestos, giving the electorate a fair idea of what to expect from them. The ruling BJP’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ lists promises that seem, by and large, feasible: interest-free crop loan of up to Rs 3 lakh to farmers, collateral-free loan of up to Rs 3 lakh to applicants from the Scheduled Castes and a target of Rs 5,000 crore for interest and penalty waiver on crop loans taken from cooperative banks. Desperate to regain ground, the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) are going all out to woo farmers, women and youngsters. They have promised farm loan waiver, 33 per cent quota for women in government jobs and 75 per cent reservation for the state’s youth in jobs offered by private companies.
CM Manohar Lal Khattar claims that of the 150-odd poll promises made in 2014, ‘only 10-11 could not be fulfilled as these involved litigation’, but the Opposition says the BJP has let down all categories of voters in the past five years. According to the CM, the Congress would need Rs 1.26 lakh crore to fulfil its promises, while the BJP would require far less (Rs 32,000 crore) to do the needful. The saffron party’s manifesto does look rooted in practicality, resisting the temptation of making outlandish commitments that could force the government to live beyond its means.
The farm loan write-off had proved to be the trump card for the Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh late last year. However, months after doling out the mega freebie, the party was routed in these states in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The factionalism-hit Congress had also drawn a blank in Haryana, even as the BJP swept all 10 parliamentary seats. The INLD, too, is down in the dumps, especially after Dushyant Chautala broke ranks to form the Jannayak Janata Party. Making grand promises to attract the voters’ attention might be an electoral compulsion for the Opposition parties, but unless they provide a credible alternative, it would only be an exercise in futility.