The Congress released its manifesto for Telangana last evening. The release came with a series of news articles and television debates, which asked whether the Congress was practising appeasement politics in its election promises.
On Republic TV, editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami ran a prime-time debate last night on the manifesto with the hashtag #MuslimOnlyCongress. The segment in the debate stated that the Congress promised hospitals exclusively for Muslims and free power supplies to mosques. “The Congress has been on an appeasement overdrive in Telangana … 11 Muslim-only schemes have been promised,” says the voiceover.
Goswami began his show with remarks such as this: “They [Congress] planned Muslim-only hospitals … they have even said that free electricity will be given to mosques … but free electricity will not be given to Hindu temples … what is going on in this country?”
Goswami added: “They say that ₹5 lakh will be given only to Muslims for house construction … which means ghar banane ke liye … Hinduon ko, Sikhon ko ghar banane ke liye loan bhi nahin milega…”
Goswami throughout the debate emphasised how there was nothing for Hindus in the manifesto that all benefits—scholarships, funds, healthcare and so on—would be accrued by Muslims.
Meanwhile, Times Now editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar ran a debate on November 26 based on the “rank favouritism” of the manifesto’s draft copy. Headlined “Shock assault on secularism”, Shivshankar said the manifesto’s promises “might even be illegal”, since the Congress was promising seven “Muslim-only” schemes, where “taxpayer money will be used to benefit one religion, more so perhaps than even others”. Once the official manifesto was released, Times Now announced that its newsbreak on this “Muslim-only manifesto” had been “confirmed”.
Newslaundry took a peek at the manifesto to cross-check some of the claims made by both Republic and Times Now.
Claim 1: Special opportunities in government contracts for Muslim youth.
The manifesto said, “Muslim minority youth will be given opportunities to get government contracts so as to provide them employment.” It also said, “Youth who participated in the Telangana movement will be given 50% works in all government contracts”, and that five per cent of all government contracts would be given to SC, ST and other groups.
Claim 2: ₹20 lakh financial assistance for poor Muslim students.
The manifesto says poor minority students will be given ₹20 lakh assistance for overseas education. But it also promises ₹25 lakh assistance to students belonging to SC, ST, minorities, OBC and other economically backward sections (EBCs) for pursuing overseas education. It defines EBC students as including Brahmins, Reddys, Vaishyas, Kammas and Velmas.
Claim 3: Special residential schools to be set up for Muslim students.
What the manifesto actually says is: “Special Residential Schools will be established for girls belonging to minority community.” Apart from a bunch of education programmes for all communities, though, the manifesto also includes: “Funds will be provided to Vedic Schools for promotion and protection of Vedic religion.”
Claim 4: Hospitals for Muslims to be established in the state.
The manifesto says, “Government Hospitals will be established in minority concentrated areas.” It has a slew of schemes to increase speciality hospitals, ambulance services, trauma centres and the improvement of infrastructure and medical equipment. It promises health cards and accidental insurance specifically to pujaris and staff of 643 temples, and the promotion of ayurveda, unani and homeopathy hospitals.
Claim 5: Free electricity supply to mosques and churches in Telangana.
The manifesto clearly says: “Free power supply will be given to all temples, mosques, churches and other places of worship.”
Claim 6: Action against private firms denying jobs on basis of religion.
This is true. The manifesto explains, “All kinds of discrimination on religious grounds in giving jobs in both public and private sectors will be stopped. Strict action will be taken against those who refuse jobs in private sector to anyone on the basis of his/her religion.”
Claim 7: Urdu District Selection panels for recruitment of Muslim teachers.
The manifesto says a special District Selection Committee will be conducted for the recruitment of Urdu teachers. It also says DSCs will be set up for the recruitment of teachers in general. The manifesto includes: “If vacant teacher posts are not filled with the eligible non-minority teachers [emphasis added], these posts will be filled with Muslim minority candidates by adopting Time Frame Roster policy.”
Claim 8: ₹5 lakh will be given to Muslims alone for construction of houses.
The manifesto says: “All eligible families will be given ₹5 Lakh assistance for construction of house on their own land.” SC and ST families will be given ₹6 lakh. Poor- and middle-class families will be provided with cement at a subsidised rate for the construction of houses.
Times Now and Republic TV also overlooked a ton of other promises the manifesto specifically made to Hindu communities. Here are some of them:
– Brahmins living Below Poverty Line will be provided with all assistance and the budget of Brahmin Corporation will be increased to ₹200 crore.
– Under the Parishad Scheme for Brahmins’ welfare, the eligible income limit will be increased from ₹1.5 lakh to ₹ 2 lakh in rural areas and from ₹2 lakh to ₹4 lakh in urban areas.
– Pujaris working in 643 temples will be given salaries on par with state government staff.
It also said funds will be released for repair of temples, mosques, and churches, and surveys will be done on the encroachments of land belonging to temples, mosques, and churches and necessary legislation will be done to protect their properties.
It’s fairly clear both channels cherry-picked a handful of schemes which benefit Muslims while ignoring the rest of the manifesto which has schemes, equivalent or otherwise, to appease other communities.
It should also be pointed out that the back-and-forth over the manifesto wasn’t helped by the utter lack of organisation on the Congress side of affairs. Hours after the release of the manifesto, AICC secretary Madhu Yaskhi was quoted by Mumbai Mirror as saying, “We have not released any manifesto in Telangana. We have been waiting for a suitable date from former PM Manmohan Singh to release the manifesto.” Statements by Congress leadership also offered little clarification on the exact contents of the manifesto, even though it was released at around 5 pm yesterday.