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He has returned to the kind of communal hectoring that resounded in his election speeches in Gujarat ever since the communal riots in the state. Pakistan frequently surfaced in his election speeches then, as it does now. The messaging is unambiguous in both cases, that the Congress is a party sympathetic to Muslims, who in turn are loyal to Pakistan and terror. Modi is the hero of the Hindu nation, because he is the only muscular leader who can take on and defeat all three of these enemies, within and outside the nation.
I too was part of this. There could be and there were, wrong steps, false moves, stumbles.
Who we are : a citizen's manifesto
But there was, nonetheless, a sense of our country moving, broadly, on a path shown to it by its founders. We have seen, clearly and unmistakably, the institutional pillars of the Republic being dismantled. Our collective, therefore, decided to release a manifesto of urgent and actionable reforms in law, policies and institutions for saving and reclaiming our republic, which we hoped that political parties, candidates, campaign organisations, the media and citizens will take note of while developing their agenda for the elections.
It is in the light of these proposals that I try to evaluate the Congress manifesto here.
It does not go so far as the full repeal of this law, as we had proposed, but even this partial withdrawal of impunity of men in uniform for grave crimes offers a belated but welcome signal to the people of Kashmir and the North East, that it is at last restoring some hope of human rights of the citizens in these troubled regions. On lynching and hate violence, once again, the Congress sheds its tentativeness, promising to end impunity, and in particular the accountability of public officials for proven negligence in riots and hate crimes.
Both agendas also agree on enacting a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, and the establishment of an equal opportunities commission. The Congress pledges two very different but significant judicial reforms. One is to covert the Supreme Court purely into a constitutional court, and develop a different system to hear appeals, and for ensuring much greater caste, gender and religious diversity in senior judge appointments.
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The Congress pledge again is different, but bold and far-reaching — to break monopolies, cross-holding of shares and the cartelisation of the media. On electoral reforms, our collective had called to reverse the recent regressive changes to laws on electoral funding that allow foreign funds, unlimited donations by corporates and anonymous funding mechanisms like electoral bonds, and to bring a comprehensive law for election financing reforms that prescribes electoral expenditure limit for political parties, restrictions on use of cash, stronger disclosure requirements, compliance of disclosure requirements and penalties for non-adherence.
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Again, the Congress manifesto goes part of the way with its pledge that anonymous donations will not be allowed, and to create a national election fund to which anyone can contribute. However, the most intractable challenge of this measure would be how these poorest families would be objectively identified, something the Indian state has never been able to do, leading to dangers of rent-seeking and patronage. The Congress manifesto is more limited: it promises to expand rural employment guarantee to days.
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The IC Citizen Manifesto
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