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Odds Congress Faces In Regaining Public Trust

With an eye to gain support of the youth, the Congress in its manifesto has promised 100 per cent employment, with a dole of Rs 5,000 to the jobless whose family income is under Rs 1 lakh per annum. There are over 1.20 lakh persons on the live register of labour and employment department. With the income cut-off all might not be eligible for the 5000-rupee dole; still, the burden would add to the already high burden of welfare schemes. As far as total employment is concerned, the Congress government in the past had failed to create adequate jobs; so the trust of the youth in the Congress promise would not be very high.
The Congress has promised to close down both onshore and offshore casinos. The party has been desperate to remove the tag attached to it for having allowed casinos to come up in the state. There is possibility of casino operators taking the battle to the courts. If that happens, the casinos will still continue, and the Congress could get away by telling people it was helpless against stay orders of the court. Shutting down casinos means loss of revenue to the tune of Rs 250 crore by way of taxes and fees. With mining shutdown taking away Rs 1500 crore from the state revenue and the general economic downswing with demonetization, the Congress must explain how it would mobilize additional resources. Voters cannot be blamed if they view the Congress promise on casinos in the light of the repeated assurance and the repeated failure of the BJP-led government to shut down casinos. Apart from contributions to the state exchequer, casinos also provide jobs to hundreds of people, quite a good number of them being Goans. Has the Congress leadership pondered on the economic and social impact of closure of casinos? Does it have an alternative to make good the loss of income and accommodate the people likely to be rendered jobless after shutting casinos?
Regional Plan 2021 and PDAs (Planning and Development Authorities) are the other two issues that the Congress is promising to deal with by bringing in new ones under the provisions of the amended Town and Country Planning Act. Congress ministers were accused of making underhand dealing in finalization of the Regional Plan 2021 during the last elections and this, along with rising unemployment and casinos, were among the issues on which the party lost elections. Making promises to win elections is one thing and delivering on them is another. The Congress has to convince voters how it will be a different party than it was before 2012. Another promise that the Congress party has made is to root out corruption. It is still fresh in the minds of people that the Congress government allowed corruption to go unabated in mining, PWD and a lot of other sectors. Merely promising to set up anti-corruption offices will not be found very convincing by voters. The party leadership has to inform the public whether it has identified the offices and processes where corruption is rampant and how it will curb it. The Congress image on anti-corruption could perhaps have been better had it forcefully highlighted cases of corruption in the BJP-led government. People’s faith in the sincerity and ability of the Congress to check corruption if it comes to power could have been greater had the party been constantly unearthing the hidden corruption in the BJP-led government which otherwise went on unhindered.
On welfare, the Congress has tried to be more liberal than the BJP. Apart from the dole of Rs 5,000 to the jobless with family income under Rs 1 lakh, the party has also promised to write off the loans of families having trucks or tankers that were used in mining activities. It remains to be seen how much the Congress can gain traction on these issues as the BJP has been making all efforts to capitalize on its welfare schemes and its financial assistance to businesses affected by the mining shutdown. Higher welfare grants and more financial assistance to the mining shutdown-affected will make greater demand on the state resources. According to the Congress, there has been tremendous fall in revenue and the state gross domestic product. If that is the case, where will the Congress bring money from to implement the schemes? And will there be enough left thereafter for the development of the state? The state exchequer is in a situation where the new government cannot make grand plans for fast development without finding ways of mobilizing additional resources. And the problem is that additional resources cannot be raised without developing the state economy. It is a very problematic situation and the Congress manifesto does not inspire confidence in this regard.

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