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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 14:38 GMT
Congress pledges millions of jobs
Sonia Gandhi campaigning
Congress has promised to deepen economic reform
India's main opposition Congress party is promising 10 million jobs if it wins forthcoming general elections.

In its manifesto, the party says it will strengthen key state-owned companies and banks in its push for growth if it wins the April/May polls.

The party says it is committed to the existing economic reforms programme to attain high performance rates.

Congress officials have also criticised the BJP-led government's "indiscriminate" privatisation drive.

The party feels that state-owned companies which make profits should not be privatised. It also opposes privatisation in state-owned energy and infrastructure firms.

'Selective privatisation'

"The Congress will approach privatisation selectively. Disinvestment will not be resorted to merely to raise revenue to meet short-term targets," the manifesto, released by party leader Sonia Gandhi, says.

The Congress will strengthen the public sector in key, strategic areas, including infrastructure
Congress manifesto
The ruling-BJP led coalition government's privatisation drive has included selling stakes in profit-making energy firms.

Congress will "broaden and deepen economic reforms", its manifesto says.

"The overriding objective will be to attain and sustain year after year an 8-10% rate of economic growth."

The manifesto claims that the average annual rate of economic growth under the BJP had been lower than in the 1980s and much of the early 1990s when the Congress was in power.

"The BJP is going to the polls on a so-called 'feel-good' factor. This is bogus," the manifesto says.

A BJP spokesman said the manifesto was high on rhetoric and low on specifics.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said the Congress had failed to achieve in 50 years what the BJP had done in just five.

Policy documents

Congress is also promising to improve farm incomes, and provide equal opportunities for the minorities and the backward castes and lower-caste Dalits.

It says it will work out a common programme for governance in case it has to form a coalition government with other parties.

Mrs Gandhi said the party would provide details of its policies in three "vision documents" on economy, social empowerment and national security and foreign policy.

India votes 2004: Full in-depth coverage here

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