India’s main opposition Congress party said on Tuesday it would expand an existing jobs programme to guarantee 150 days of work a year to rural households and provide additional help to farmers if the party wins a general election starting next week.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act currently provides for 100 days of employment a year.
“We want to guarantee 150 days of MGNREGA scheme,” party president Rahul Gandhi told reporters in New Delhi.
In a manifesto released by Gandhi, Congress highlighted job creation, tackling farm distress and empowerment of women as some of its top priorities.
The BJP has in recent days focused mainly on national security amid fresh hostilities with neighbour and arch rival Pakistan.
Gandhi also said Congress had won voters’ hearts with a plan announced last week to hand 72 000 rupees ($1 041) a year to India’s poorest, a promise the BJP has dismissed as a bluff and some economists have called fiscally irresponsible.
Congress promised to simplify the unified goods and services tax, quickly fill 2.2 million government jobs nationwide and create 1 million more on rural and urban development panels.
Congress, founded in 1885, has consistently trailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in opinion polls, despite winning three state elections late last year amid farm distress and a jobs shortage.