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'Final chance to ensure our democracy is protected': Manmohan Singh's emotional appeal to voters
LS polls
Photo courtesy: PIB Archive

'Final chance to ensure our democracy is protected': Manmohan Singh's emotional appeal to voters

| @indiablooms | 30 May 2024, 09:21 pm

New Delhi/IBNS: Ahead of the last phase of voting, ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made an emotional appeal to Punjab voters who will exercise their rights on Saturday.

The 91-year-old leader has urged them to make the most of a "final chance to ensure our democracy and Constitution are protected from repeated assaults by a despotic regime".

In a three-page open letter, the veteran Congressman lamented the "unimaginable turmoil" in the Indian economy over the past decade - the two terms of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.

Singh, who led the liberalisation of the Indian economy in 1991 as the then Finance Minister, and also served as the Governor of the Reserve Bank, presented a succinct comparison of key socio-political and economic moments from the past 10 years and the two terms of his Congress-led UPA government.

"The imposition of the demonetisation disaster, a flawed GST (goods and service tax), and the painful mismanagement during the COVID pandemic has resulted in a miserable situation, where an expectation of subpar six to seven per cent GDP growth has become the new normal," Singh said.

"Average GDP growth under the BJP government has plunged to under six per cent... during Congress-UPA tenure it was about eight per cent (New Series). Unprecedented unemployment and unbridled inflation have greatly widened inequality, which is now at a 100-year high," the former PM said.

According to World Bank data, GDP growth under the UPA government touched a high of 8.5 percent in 2010 and hit a low of 3.1 percent in 2008 (during the global financial crisis).

In the last 10 years, it has reached a high of 9.1 percent (in 2021) and plummeted to -5.8 during the pandemic.

On farmers' protest:

On the issue of the nationwide farmers' protests that forced the BJP govt to roll back three controversial laws, he reproached the Centre for having "left no stone unturned in castigating Punjabis".

"As if the lathis and rubber bullets were not enough, the Prime Minister verbally assaulted our farmers by calling them 'parasites' on the floor of the Parliament," he said.

"Modiji had promised to double the income of our farmers by 2022 (but) his policies in the past 10 years have eroded the earnings... the national average monthly income of farmers is a meagre ₹ 27 per day, while average debt per farmer is ₹ 27,000 (from government data)," Singh said.

The former PM then highlighted the UPA government's loan waivers "worth ₹ 72,000 crore to 3.73 crore farmers" and said it had "increased MSP (minimum support price, at the heart of renewed farmers protest against the BJP government), and increased production, while encouraging exports".

The Congress today, he continued, had promised a legal guarantee for MSP, which has been one of the protesting farmers' biggest demands, and a stable import-export policy for agriculture, as well as loan waivers and the "direct transfer of insured compensation in 30 days in case of crop loss".

On income disparity, jobs for youth:

Flagging income disparity that has led to "widespread distress", the former PM highlighted "course corrections" - the five 'yuva nyay' pillars - in his party's election manifesto with specific reference to unemployment among the youth, and also "...30 lakh government (job) vacancies (and) innumerable paper leaks have cast a dark shadow on their future".

His red flag on this subject comes after a report by the World Inequality Lab in March, which said India's richest people today have a larger share of national income than at any time in the past 100 years.

"We have committed that 30 lakh vacancies would be systematically filled according to a job calendar... half of those jobs would be reserved for women, and we will establish fast-track courts for (exam) paper leak cases..." Singh said in his letter.

The BJP, though, has argued that indicators like filed income tax returns (3.36 crore in 2014 to over eight crore in 2024) suggest jobs are being generated. Mr Modi has also pointed to Employee Provident Fund data - over six crore new subscribers in seven years - to make the same point.

A government report last week said the unemployment rate for people over 15 (in urban areas) 'fell' to 6.7 per cent in the January-March period; it was 6.8 per cent a year ago.

On Agniveer:

The former Prime Minister also mounted a sharp attack on the BJP over the contentious Agnipath military recruitment scheme, which the Congress has said it will scrap if it wins this election.

"The BJP government imposed an ill-conceived Agniveer scheme (Agniveer is the name given to those who enlist under the Agnipath programme) on our armed forces... BJP thinks the value of patriotism, bravery, and service is only four years. This shows their fake nationalism," he said.

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