Mumbai: The crisis in the agriculture sector, unemployment and national security have become the leading issues during the general election for the 17th Lok Sabha whose first phase began April 11, 2019.

The leading national political parties’ manifestos differ on how to address these issues. IndiaSpend examines the manifestos of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (Congress) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) to compare how they propose to address these issues, as well as foreign relations, infrastructure and health.

Promises Made By Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian National Congress and Communist Party Of India
Categories BJP INC CPI (M)
Farmers 1) Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana to all 2) Pension for small and marginal farmers 3) Rs 25 lakh crore investment in Agri-rural sector 4) Interest-free Kisan Credit Card loans 1) Congress promises to waive the outstanding farm loans in other States as well.2) We will present a separate “Kisan Budget.3) Recognise ownership and tenancy rights of women farmers and ensure women get the benefits of agriculture-related schemes.4) Re-design MGNREGA 3.0 1) Increase MSP to cover full costs including family labour, land rent etc., and give a return of at least 50% above costs (C2+50).2) crop insurance scheme to cover all types of risks for crop and cattle covering all farmers including tenant farmers and sharecroppers with additional subsidies for small and marginal farmers.3)Extend labour subsidy to the small and marginal farmers under MNREGS.
National Security 1) We will only continue our policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ against terrorism and extremism.2) We will speed up the purchases of outstanding defence related equipment and weapons. In order to equip the Armed Forces with modern equipment.3) Armed Forces will start planning for the resettlement of soldiers three years before their retirement" 1) Defence spending is increased to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces.2) defence of the territory to include data security, cyber security, financial security, communication security3) rapidly expand domestic capacity to manufacture defence and security equipment.4) Congress will establish the office of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to be the principal adviser to the Government on matters relating to defence. 5) Congress promises to ensure increased representation of women to achieve a minimum of 33% in the force strength of CISF, CRPFand BSF.6) We will set up a Committee to draft new Service Rules for personnel of the CAPFs"1) Creating a national security apparatus, which will work within the framework of the parliamentary democratic system. 1) Creating a national security apparatus, which will work within the framework of the parliamentary democratic system.
Foreign Relations 1) We will make knowledge exchange and transfer of technology for the development of all countries a major focus of our diplomatic relations. 2) We will create an institutional mechanism to deepen the relationship between culture and heritage with people of Indian origin, and to regularly engage with them. 1) Congress promises to establish a National Council on Foreign Policy consisting of members of the Cabinet Committee on Security, scholars, domain experts and diplomats to advise the Government on matters concerning foreign policy2) Congress promises to increase significantly the size of the Foreign Service, induct domain experts 1) An independent and non-aligned foreign policy, promoting multi-polarity. Strengthen BRICS, SCO and IBSA. Reactive SAARC and strengthen ties with the countries in our immediate neighbourhood. 2) Opposing interventions and regime changes imposed by the United States as is happening in Venezuela and in many countries in Latin America. 3) Reverse the pro-Israeli tilt in foreign policy. 4) Special efforts to build relations and ties with Bangladesh and settle the Teesta water agreement. Address the concerns of Rohingyas who continue to remain as state-less."
Jobs Infrastructure construction will lead to more job creation. 1) Congress will fill all 4 lakh Central Government and institutional vacancies before March 2020. 2) Congress will create a new Ministry of Industry, Services and Employment. 3) Congress pledges to create lakhs of new jobs for qualified teachers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, technicians, instructors and administrators through a massive expansion of the education and health sectors 4) We will provide financial incentives to businesses that employ a certain percentage of women. 5) We recognise the need to create lakhs of low skilled jobs in order to absorb young men and women who have completed only a few years in school. 6) Increase the guaranteed days of employment up to 150 days under NREGA 1) Provision of jobs or unemployment allowance. 2) Lift the ban on recruitment in central government and state government services. All vacant posts to be filled in central and state governments within a time-bound framework. 3) Special packages to support labour-intensive industries in creating jobs. Enactment of legislation for employment guarantee in all urban areas. 200 days of work under MGNREGS to be assured; the list of permissible works under the MNREGA to be expanded to include all activities that improve the quality of life in rural areas.
Infrastructure 1) We will aim at next-generation infrastructure which will include gas grids and water grids, i-ways, regional airports and wayside amenities along National Highways. 2) We will launch a National Urban Mobility Mission to provide technology-based urban mobility solutions to all urban local bodies and increase the use of public transport, enhance walkability and cycle use. 3) In the next five years, we will ensure that 50 cities are covered with a strong metro network. 4) We will launch ‘Jal Jivan Mission’ under which we will introduce a special programme, ‘Nal se Jal’ to ensure piped water for every household by 2024. 5) We will double the length of National Highways by 2022. We will construct 60,000 kms of National Highways in the next five years. 6) We will create all viable rail tracks to broad gauge, complete the dedicated freight corridor, l equip all main railway stations with Wi-Fi facility by 2022. 7) Double the number of airports in the country 8) We will double our capacity in the next five years. 8) Every Gram Panchayat will be connected with high-speed optical fibre network by 2022." 1) We will formulate a policy on Clean Energy in existing power plants that use fossil fuels and promote Green Energy to enhance the share of solar and wind energy in the total supply of energy 2) Congress promises to massively modernise all outdated railway infrastructure. 3) Congress promises to enhance the availability of, and access to, electricity in rural areas by encouraging investment in off-grid renewable power generation with ownership and revenues vesting in local bodies. 3) Congress promises the Right to Housing for the urban poor and protection from arbitrary eviction. 4) Congress will launch a Slum Upgradation and Transformation Scheme to ensure basic services such as drinking water, electricity and sanitation to slum dwellers. 5) Congress promises to establish a non-lapsable Rural Infrastructure Fund that will provide loans and grants to specific infrastructure projects undertaken by Panchayats and Municipalities 6) We will pass the Right to Homestead Act to provide a homestead for every household that does not own a home or own land on which a house may be built.8) Public spaces, public transport, public premises and other public facilities in towns and cities will be made safe for women, children, persons with disabilities, migrants and marginalised sections of society. More women will be appointed to government and municipal jobs in towns and cities. Reversal of privatisation of defence production sector; immediately taking measures to rescind private participation in defence production; stopping FDI inflows in defence sector; strengthening and expanding State-owned defence industry to achieve self-reliance in defence. Changing telecom policies to promote telecom penetration and connectivity in rural areas; strengthening the public sector telecom companies BSNL and MTNL and allocating necessary spectrum for them to upgrade their services.Increasing broadband penetration and universal affordable access to the internet. Reviewing of privatisation of infrastructure through the PPP route.Rescind the orders for the private maintenance and up-gradation of airports. No further PPPs in domestic airports already modernised by Airport Authority of India. Placing emphasis on rural infrastructure; increased outlays on rural roads, electrification etc
Health We will take it forward and set up one Medical College or Post Graduate Medical College in every district, through public or private participation, by 2024. We will endeavour to make the National Nutrition Mission a mass movement and strengthen infrastructure and capacity in all Anganwadis. We have rolled out a Special Mission to eliminate TB from India by 2025. Congress promises that the total government expenditure on healthcare will be doubled to 3 % of GDP by the year 2023-24. 2. Congress promises to enact the Right to Healthcare Act that will guarantee to every citizen. Congress promises to implement the National Mental Health Policy, 2014 and the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 in letter and spirit. We will ensure that all vacancies at all levels in PHCs and in public hospitals are filled within a period of 1 year. 5) We will expand the ASHA programme and appoint a second ASHA worker in all villages with a population exceeding 2500 persons. Make the right to free health care justiciable through the enactment of appropriate legislation both at Central and State levels. Public expenditure on health to be raised to at least 3.5 % in the short term and 5 % of the GDP in the long term, which would include a significantly enhanced allocation from the Centre. Strengthening, expanding and reorienting the public health system so that it is accountable to local communities and guarantees free and easy access to a range of comprehensive health care services. Build and actively promote a predominantly public health system based framework for the provision of universal health care. Scrap the PMJAY under the ‘Ayushman Bharat’ scheme based on the discredited ‘insurance model’. Ensure right based access to comprehensive treatment and care of persons with mental illness through the integration of the revised District Mental Health Programme with the National Health Mission. Controlling price of essential drugs by adopting a cost-based pricing formula; minimum cost-MRP margin and removal of all taxes on medicines in National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM); reduce huge excise duty on medicines by reversing from MRP-based to the cost-based collection.

Source: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (Congress) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


The BJP proposes to promote infrastructure development as a means to create jobs. The Congress focuses on interventions such as filling up vacant government posts, and expanding social infrastructure such as health and education services to create more jobs. In rural areas, the Congress promises to increase the number of days employment provided under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) from 100 to 150 in districts and blocks where 100 days of employment have been achieved. The CPI-M, on the other hand, promises an unemployment allowance, removing the halt on government recruitment, and providing 200 days of work under MGNREGS.

Farm crisis

The BJP is planning on continuing its schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. Both the Congress and CPI-M have promised to eliminate the Fasal Bima Yojana in its present form, as both parties claim that the scheme has benefitted insurance companies more than the farmers.

The Congress promises that it will revamp the scheme, and also promises an all-round loan waiver. The Congress has made specific promises to recognise the ownership and tenancy rights of women farmers so they can benefit from agriculture schemes. It also promises a special ‘Kisan Budget’ to address the crisis in agriculture.

The CPI-M promises loan waivers and that it will enforce the increases in Minimum Support Prices (MSP) to cover full costs including family labour, land rent and so on, and provide a return of at least 50% above costs, as per the recommendation of the National Commission on Farmers chaired by eminent agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan.

National security

The BJP has reiterated its policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and speeding up of defence purchases. It has also promised to continue to carry out the ‘Make in India’ defence programme, which it hopes will also create jobs.

Meanwhile, the Congress focuses on increased defence spending and developing domestic capability to develop weapons and other equipment. The party has also expanded the purview of national security to include data security, cyber security, financial security and communication security.

Both parties have also promised to ensure the welfare of the armed forces under the wider ambit of national security, with the BJP promising that armed forces personnel will be provided resettlement facilities before three years of retirement, under which they can learn soft skills, and get financial support for higher education, housing and starting an enterprise.

The Congress has promised that it will set up a committee to draft new service rules for the personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces and increase the representation of women to achieve a minimum of 33% in the force strength of the Central Industrial Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force.


Health features prominently in all parties’ manifestos.

The Congress has promised to raise health spending to 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2023-24 if elected, and to introduce a Right to Health for all citizens. The Congress has also said that the insurance-based model “cannot be the preferred model to provide universal healthcare”, and has promised to “promote and implement the free public hospitals-model”, and strengthen primary healthcare systems.

Echoes of this approach are found in the CPI-M manifesto as well.

The Congress has also promised that not only will it ensure payment dues to Accredited Social Health Activist and anganwadi workers (community health worker instituted by the government of India's ministry of health and family welfare, and ministry of women and child development) but will also hire two ASHAs for each village with a population larger than 2,500.

The BJP will continue to support the health insurance scheme, Ayushman Bharat Yojana or National Health Protection Scheme. The party has also promised that it will embark on a mass movement under the National Nutrition Mission and also roll out a special mission to eliminate tuberculosis from India by 2025.

Special focus areas


The ruling party has promised that it will explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution and all necessary efforts to facilitate the expeditious construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

The party will also “undertake every effort to ensure that the subject of faith, tradition and worship rituals related to Sabarimala are presented in a comprehensive manner before the Hon’ble Supreme Court”. It will secure constitutional protection on issues related to faith and belief.

The BJP has reiterated its stand on Article 370--which gives autonomous status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K)--saying it is committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India that empowers the J&K legislature to confer privileges to permanent residents. The BJP manifesto argues that this provision discriminates against non-permanent residents and the women of J&K who lose privileges if they marry non-permanent residents.

“We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state,” the manifesto states, adding, “We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits and we will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and Chhamb.”

It also promises a Uniform Civil Code, particularly as a means to achieve gender parity.

The promise in the party’s 2014 manifesto to increase spending on education to 6% of GDP by 2019 does not feature in the current manifesto. The 2014 promise to build an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in every state also finds no mention, instead of which the party promises to ensure that there is one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies.

The 2014 manifesto promise of dedicated women Industrial Training Institutes and small manufacturing enterprises in every district is also absent from the 2019 manifesto.

The 2014 manifesto had promised a ban on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail, which was upturned when the government allowed 100% FDI in single-brand retail in 2014. The current manifesto promises creation of welfare board for small traders.


The Congress will get investigated several deals entered into by the BJP government in the last five years, in particular the Rafale deal.

The party will introduce a ‘Diversity Index’ to assess and ensure diversity in all government bodies, semi-government agencies, public sector enterprises and other public bodies.

It also promises to pass an ‘Anti-Discrimination Law’ to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, gender or language in the supply of goods and services made available to the general public, such as housing, hostels, hotels and clubs.

The party will introduce a ‘Nyuntam Aay Yojana’ (NYAY) to ensure an income of Rs 72,000 a year to the 50 million families that constitute the poorest 20% families in India in order to eliminate abject poverty by 2030. The money will be transferred into the bank account of a woman in the family.

Newer issues

The Congress and the CPI-M have introduced some issues in their manifestos that are not featured in the BJP’s or any other parties’ manifestos.

LGBT rights

The Congress promises to ensure the effective implementation of the ruling in the Navtej Singh Johar case as the next steps are towards legalising same-sex marriage. If voted to power, the Congress promises to immediately withdraw the Transgender Bill of 2018 that is pending in Parliament. Instead, it aims to introduce a Bill consistent with the judgment in the case in order to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) rights.

The CPI-M has also promised legal recognition and protection to same-sex couples similar to marriage--a ‘civil union’, ’same-sex-partnership’--through legislation on the lines of the Special Marriage Act 1954. This aims to ensure that partners can be listed as dependents for the purposes of inheritance, alimony, etc. Legislation will also ensure that crimes against LGBT persons are treated on par with crimes against non-LGBT persons. The BJP manifesto has no mention of these groups.

Workers’ rights

The Congress will ensure that notified minimum wages are paid to workers in the unorganised sector. It will ratify ILO (International Labour Organization) Convention 87 (Freedom of Association) and ILO Convention 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining). The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, will be implemented.

The CPI-M has also promised to discourage contractualisation and casualisation of work through stringent implementation of the Contract Labour (Regulation And Abolition) Act; payment of equal wages and benefits to contract workers and regular workers who do the same and similar work; and stopping outsourcing and contractorisation of jobs of a permanent and perennial nature.

Protecting the media and battling fake news

The Congress will pass a law to curb monopolies in the media, cross-ownership of different segments of the media and control of the media by other business organisations. It will work with state governments to formulate rules to require the police to extend protection to journalists working in conflict areas or investigating matters of public interest and to journalists whose lives are threatened or otherwise in danger. It will amend the Press Council of India Act to empower the council to deal with fake news and paid news.

Revoking Aadhaar?

The Congress promises to amend the Aadhaar Act of 2016 to restrict the use of Aadhaar to subsidies, benefits and services provided by the government as was originally intended under the law.

The CPI-M has said it will scrap Aadhaar and biometric verification for all social welfare measures, and will delink Aadhaar for the public distribution system (PDS is a government-sponsored chain of shops entrusted with the work of distributing basic food and non-food commodities to the needy sections of the society at subsidised prices).

Scrapping laws

Both the Congress and the CPI-M have promised to remove or amend certain laws that they say have been used to quell opposition.

Both parties have promised to omit Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and make ‘defamation’ a civil offence; and to omit Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code that defines the offence of ‘sedition’.

The parties also propose to amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. The Congress manifesto states it will amend the laws that allow for detention without trial “in order to bring them in accord with the spirit, and not just the letter, of the Constitution as well as International Human Rights Conventions”.

The Congress has also promised to pass a Prevention of Torture Act to prohibit the use of third-degree methods during custody or interrogation and to punish cases of torture, brutality and other police excesses.

(Salve is a senior analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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