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Last Updated: Friday, 28 May, 2004, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
India's 'common minimum programme'
Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh
The new government's emphasis is on helping the poor
The policy agenda for India's new Congress-led government was hammered out this week in marathon talks with coalition partners and communist supporters.

The resulting "common minimum programme" was revealed on Thursday with a heavy emphasis on tackling the needs of India's poor.

The new focus was a key plank of Congress' election campaign, in which it defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of Atal Behari Vajpayee.

But the new government also says it wants to push ahead with economic reform and growth.

Terrorism act repeal

Congress now heads the 20-party United Progressive Alliance under new prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

The main points covered in the common minimum programme were:

  • The scrapping of key elements of the BJP government's privatisation programme. The new government will not sell off profitable state-run firms and the privatisation of loss-making firms will be decided "case-by-case".

  • A pledge to raise spending on education to 6% of gross domestic product and to encourage more foreign investment in the oil and energy sector.

  • A pledge to pursue a target for annual growth of between 7% and 8%.

  • The scrapping of the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) passed by the last government. The new alliance says it has been grossly misused over the past two years, especially against Muslims.

  • Maintaining a credible nuclear weapons programme while seeking a nuclear-free world.

  • Maintaining peace talks with nuclear-neighbour Pakistan. "Dialogue with Pakistan on all issues will be pursued systematically on a sustained basis."

  • A promise to "fully empower" women.

  • Equal treatment in education and work for religious and caste minorities.

  • Pursuing "friendly ties" with the United States while opposing "all attempts at unilateralism".

  • Giving relations with the Arabic world of West Asia a "fresh thrust". The government also said it stood by India's old commitment to an independent Palestinian homeland.


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