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Elections 2014: NCP manifesto balances Muslims and Marathas, state and nation

While Marathas form the backbone of party’s base in the state, they are trying hard to woo the Muslim voters as well

The manifesto released by the Nationalist Congress party for the Lok Sabha elections tries to tread the fine line between communalism and secularism, promising reservations to Muslims as well as Marathas. The manifesto also made it a point to deal with national issues as well as issues concerning the state of Maharashtra, where it is part of the ruling alliance.

NCP leader Sharad Pawar during a recent visit to the city. Pic/Bipin Kokate
NCP leader Sharad Pawar during a recent visit to the city. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The party stand comes in the backdrop of a comprehensive report on reservations for the Maratha community submitted by Congress Minister Narayan Rane, which is pending approval from the state cabinet. The move is being viewed as a tactical one, as the party does not want to antagonise the Muslim community, whose votes it desperately seeks in the Lok Sabha elections and subsequently in the state assembly elections.

Reservations will be given in the fields of education and jobs to the weaker sections of society, including Muslims and Marathas, said the manifesto. Both the demands, if clubbed together, may require yet another committee on the lines of the one headed by Rane, feel bureaucrats.

Marathas, who are politically dominant in Maharashtra, form the backbone of NCP’s base in the state. The 44-page-manifesto also makes it clear that it doesn’t support uniform civil code and believes in representing personal codes of respective minority communities, so long as such codes or any of their provisions are not in conflict with the Constitution of India.

Yet another issue that the party has touched is lowering the age bracket for senior citizens, so more people can avail of benefits that are offered by the state government. In Maharashtra, the age has been fixed by the state government at 65, even though the Centre has provisions in place for benefits to be given to senior citizens as soon as they turn 60.

The Sharad Pawar-led party released its manifesto without any fanfare on Monday. The 41-page document touches upon all the major issues related to governance, from foreign policy, human resources, social justice to agriculture.

The document also shows support for the law commission report submitted in 2009, which says that the Supreme Court should be split into a constitutional bench in Delhi and causation benches to deal with the appellate work arising out of High Courts, in four regions of the country.

Though the SC had expressed its reservations over such a radical restructuring, the Parliament should give greater weight to public interest, as the restructuring would spare litigants the trouble of approaching the national capital from distant states, says the manifesto.

Asked why the party had released a separate manifesto despite being a part of the UPA, party spokesman Nawab Malik said that it was a norm of the party, and it had done so even in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

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