Congress 2024 manifesto, Communist manifesto of China?

| Updated: 23 April, 2024 5:48 pm IST
TNI Illustration Abhishek Singh

The Congress party duly deserves credit for opening up the Indian economy in 1991, which paved the way for growth, development, jobs, and prosperity. The party, in its 2024 parliamentary elections manifesto, could have dedicated at least a whole page to how the Narasimha Rao government turned around the India story from a basket case to a potential power. But it wrapped up Rao’s accomplishments in just one paragraph in the manifesto. Sonia Gandhi would not approve of glorifying Rao and, more importantly, the party would tie itself in knots if it looked back at its policies both pre- and post-economic liberalization and compared them with its proposed contradictory ideas in the latest manifesto.

If it regains its political fortunes and comes back to power, as per the Congress manifesto of 2024, the party will ensure equality and equity in India and create a socialist utopia. It “will establish an authority to monitor the distribution to the poor of government land and surplus land under the land ceiling Acts” and “address the growing inequality of wealth and income through suitable changes in policies.” In other words, the Congress party will ensure that all land and property come under the control of the state and are redistributed among everyone (including all the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Rohingyas) equally. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is therefore not wrong in inferring from the Congress manifesto that the party seeks to economically demolish the competition, talent, innovators, hardworking wealth creators and taxpayers who form the backbone of the Indian economy. It will undo the individual prosperity earned by ordinary Indians with their blood and sweat.

Of course, none of it will be new. Post-independence, the party experimented with this economic model in Jammu & Kashmir. The party abolished the Zamindari system, changed tenancy laws, fixed land ceilings on land holdings and consolidated landholdings in a ruthless manner in my home state. In 1953, Jawahar Lal Nehru-backed Sheikh Abdullah government in Jammu & Kashmir introduced the Kashtkaar Act. At the time, approximately 95% of land custodians in the Kashmir Valley were Hindus. This land fell into two categories: 1) land managed by Hindus on behalf of the Dogra Maharaja, paying an annual tax to the Kingdom 2) land which they purchased for agricultural and residential purposes. Contrary to claims of privilege, these custodians, many of whom were small-scale land managers, belonged to the lower-income group and often tilled the land themselves. While Hindus predominantly owned agricultural land, the more profitable sericulture, horticulture, and floriculture land, designated for fruit, flower, and silk farming, was owned by the Muslim majority.

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However, the sweeping “Land Reforms” Act of 1953 upended this system, with the state taking control of over 100,000 kanals of agricultural land from Hindus and redistributing it among Muslims. In 1975, Congress-led Chief Minister Mir Qasim escalated the persecution by introducing stricter rules offering a meager one-fourth of the agricultural produce to Pandits for 20 years, after which all rights would cease. This sudden change left the minuscule minority destitute. Later, following the Indira-Sheikh accord, when Sheikh Abdullah returned to power, he implemented even harsher laws, requiring Hindus to reclaim land within 6 kilometres of residence. Bureaucratic hurdles were added by government officials, further limiting options for Hindus. This forced Hindu landowners to sell their land to tillers at a nominal price, resulting in the loss of over 90 percent of their land. The state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus thus began with such “land reforms”.

In the rest of India, under the Congress party’s socialist policies especially under Indira Gandhi, India slid into the ‘Hindu rate of growth’, suffered brazen inequality due to the License Raj and faced even starvation, disease and death. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions—the thrust on equality and equity brought the Indian economy to its knees eventually, forcing the nation to beg before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for loans.

Given India’s disastrous experimentation and experience with redistribution of resources and socialism, it is embarrassing that the Congress party, which never tires of bragging about its huge contribution to the freedom struggle against British Colonialism, is so intellectually bankrupt that it has borrowed these failed ideas of socialism once again from the purveyors of Western Imperialism.

The Communist, err, Congress manifesto, is based on the hypothesis of three narrative-setters assigned by the West for India: Christophe Jaffrelot, Jean Dreze, and Thomas Piketty. What’s common to all three, apart from their “noble cause” of highlighting failures of the Hindu society under the BJP, is a halo of selfless missionaries of social justice. Sanctimonious in their approach, Jaffrelot focuses on the religious, caste, and sectarian fault lines of India; Dreze focuses on the poverty fault line, and Piketty focuses on the inequality fault line. The troika of communal porn, poverty porn, and wealth porn is a template lifted straight from the Colonial textbook, to divide India along caste, class and community lines.

While all three have written tomes on how India has socially, politically, and economically turned “fascistic”, “undemocratic”, and “unequal” under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they have hardly ever contextualised India’s current socio-economic challenges in Colonial and Imperialistic history. Their framework for India leaves out Western imperialism that exploited the developing and underdeveloped world post-WWII and British Colonialism, the shadow of which India is still struggling to come out of.

Disgracefully, the Congress party has embraced the Piketty report on ‘Income and Wealth Inequality in India, 1922-2023: The Rise of the Billionaire Raj,’ which claims that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is more unequal than even under the British Raj. Wearing the cloak of social justice for India, Piketty helped give the British Raj known for its loot and plunder, a free pass while castigating India, which has incidentally surpassed his host country UK as the fifth largest economy under Modi.

We, stupid Indians, don’t know anything about ourselves and hence need to be schooled by the White Man about what’s good for us—at least that’s what the Congress party seems to believe. Otherwise, why would their manifesto be such a hackneyed document of borrowed ideas and preposterous solutions to our pressing problems? If the Congress party is determined to create jobs in production and services while redistributing land, property and wealth, then the question is—under Congress will India be a replica of the Chinese Communist Party?

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