India's Congress party manifesto pledges 'growth for all'

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image captionRahul Gandhi's Congress party is up against it in the polls after two terms in power

India's governing Congress party has promised "inclusive growth" if it returns to power in general elections.

Launching its election manifesto, it promises a raft of welfare schemes, including a right to healthcare for all and pensions for the aged and disabled.

Polling to elect a new parliament begins on 7 April and runs to 12 May. Votes will be counted on 16 May.

With some 814 million eligible voters, India's election will be the largest the world has seen.

PM Manmohan Singh said the manifesto "spelt out a vision for inclusive growth".

"Growth has many dimensions and I'm glad that the manifesto spells out our strategy for accelerated growth," he said.

Mr Singh said India needed more investment, jobs and increased spending in agriculture, education and health.

Congress leader Sonia Gandhi said the party had prepared the manifesto after "taking suggestions from people across the country".

She said the elections were "not about good economic and social programmes - for the Congress it is a fight to keep the secular and constitutional fabric of India intact".

The party has also adopted a new slogan Your Voice, Our Pledge for the elections.

They will be held in nine phases over April and May and pit the governing Congress party-led coalition against the opposition BJP and its allies.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is stepping down and Congress is being led by Rahul Gandhi, the latest member of India's influential Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

The BJP is being led by the charismatic and controversial Hindu nationalist leader, Narendra Modi.

Mr Modi, who is ahead in all the pre-poll surveys, is the leader of Gujarat state which witnessed one of India's worst anti-Muslim riots in 2002.

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