The Congress party’s manifesto has ignited a crucial debate on rising inequality in India. As the BJP levels baseless accusations of wealth redistribution and inheritance tax plans, it inadvertently spotlights the issue of inequality, which economists like Thomas Piketty have called an “epidemic”. The Congress party argues that the roots of inequality extend to fundamental challenges such as unemployment, stagnant wages, weak investment, a hostile environment for small entrepreneurs, and a lopsided tax regime. Our manifesto lays out in clear terms how we plan to deal with this central challenge. The BJP’s plan is confined to distortion and distraction.

India today is more unequal than it was under the British Raj according to Nitin Kumar Bharti, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty and Anmol Somanchi in ‘Income and Wealth Inequality in India, 1922-2023: The rise of the billionaire raj’. The top 1 per cent of India today has a 40 per cent share of the country’s wealth. Twenty-one billionaires have the same wealth as 70 crore Indians, according to Oxfam. Inequality has sharpened between 2014 and 2023 and the BJP’s policies are directly responsible for this pronounced increase. The Congress is determined to undo the worst excesses of the BJP and to promote inclusive growth.

A cornerstone of rampant inequality is the pervasive scarcity of jobs. Unemployment is a big driver of inequality and has worsened under the Narendra Modi government. Economist Santosh Mehrotra projects using the PLFS data that the absolute number of the jobless has risen from 1 crore (2012) to 4 crore (2022). Forty-two per cent of graduates under 25 are unemployed according to the ‘State of Working India Report 2023’. Women’s presence in the labour market is dismally low.