India’s floundering ruling Congress Party has announced plans to create millions of jobs for the poor and revive the slumping economy in a last ditch effort to stave off defeat at national elections.
Unveiling his party’s manifesto on Wednesday for elections beginning April 7, Congress frontman Rahul Gandhi said $US1 trillion ($A1.09 trillion) would be spent on India’s decrepit infrastructure, roads and railways if his party was returned to power.
In front of several hundred Congress faithful, an upbeat Gandhi vowed to confound pollsters’ predictions that Congress was set for a humiliating defeat to the Hindu nationalist opposition after a decade in power.
“We are going to construct a manufacturing backbone that will give millions of millions of people jobs,” Gandhi told the gathering at the party’s headquarters in the capital New Delhi.
Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 81, said the next Congress government would be free of corruption, amid seething anger among voters over a string of graft scandals that has embroiled his administration.
“In a developing economy corruption cannot be wished away but every effort has to be made to overcome these tendencies which give rise to corruption,” Singh told the crowd.
Singh defended his Congress-led government’s record since it was first elected in 2004, saying 140 million people had been pulled out of poverty.
But Singh and Gandhi conceded much more needed to be done to overcome still endemic poverty for tens of millions and reform the business environment to revive the economy running at a decade low of 4.7 per cent.
The 48-page manifesto pledged to return the economy to eight per cent growth within three years and provide 100 million young people with the skills needed for employment within five years.
Congress also focused on its traditional welfare policies for the poor, saying millions would be given access to affordable medical care and housing, while all Indians would have a bank account within five years.