Wednesday, August 17th, 2022 15:28:50

BJP Manifesto A Document Of Hope?

Updated: April 26, 2014 3:40 pm

The Party manifestoes are seldom read even by the party that issues it and very rarely the voter goes through it to decide which party to vote for. But the BJP manifesto was a must-read document because of the controversies that surround the party’s designate prime minister nominee Narendra Modi and the likelihood of his becoming the next Prime Minister. There was speculation that Modi had reservations over the document drafted by Murli Manohar Joshi and that the pet themes of Sangh parivar may not figure in it in view of Modi’s stress on development in the current campaign. But it is surely Modi-fied.

The BJP issued its manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on the first day of polling saying “this is a new beginning for our country”. Modi posed alongisde BJP president Rajnath Singh, LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, and Murli Manohar Joshi as they held up the party manifesto upon its release in New Delhi.

The document, released by Modi among others at the party headquarters in New Delhi, pledged to provide good governance and inclusive development. The Election Commission had blocked the release of the BJP’s manifesto in Assam and Tripura as the first phase of polling was underway in these two north-eastern states.

In its 52-page election manifesto, the saffron party raised the main slogans of “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat” (One India, best India) and “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas”.

The BJP’s economic reforms are aimed at salvaging country’s deplorable state of development and investment. Its vision allowed Foreign Direct Investment except in retail business. This has generally been hailed by Indian retailers but criticized by several parties. But quite a few economists agreed that retailers like Tesco or Sainsbury’s would apart from generating some employment, would not lead to substantial investment. “BJP plans to steer economy out of rut, but has shut the door on FDI in multi-brand retail.”

Senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who headed the BJP manifesto committee, talking to the media said that the focus was on five Ts in the party’s manifesto – talent, tourism, trade, tradition and technology. “Our country has moved backwards in the last 10 years. The BJP manifesto focuses on things that will help the country bounce back.”

On Kashmir, it says that three parts of Kashmir, Jammu, the Valley and Ladakh is part of India. But the resolution of Parliament is that whole of Kashmir including PoK is part of India. One supposes that since in the manifesto, it is said everything would be done within the Constitution it will cover the missed point in the manifesto.

Contentious issues like construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir and enactment of Uniform Civil Code have been included in the BJP’s election manifesto.

“BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya,” the manifesto, delayed by a fortnight, said. Asked about the reported differences within the party over inclusion of the Ram Temple issue, Joshi said “whatever is there is there in the manifesto. If you want to write something on the basis of your own perceptions, you are free to do”.

On whether the party was trying to confuse voters by including Ram Temple and whether this could be called raking up Hindutva, Joshi said, “This has nothing to do with Hindutva or athva (otherwise). This is only a promise of development programme.”

“Hindutva has never been an election issue and added the manifesto was based on issues of development and governance.

“We have put it in the section on “Cultural Heritage”. What is culturally important for us we have said,” Joshi said referring to the promise on Ram Temple. He asserted that the issue had been included in the previous election manifesto too and the party’s stand remained unchanged. On Uniform Civil Code, the manifesto said Article 44 of the Constitution lists Uniform Civil Code (UCC) as one of the directive principles of the state policy. “BJP believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time India adopts a UCC which protects the rights of all women and the BJP reiterates its stand to draft a UCC drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with modern times,”.

Dealing with Article 370 in the chapter on Jammu and Kashmir, the manifesto said “the BJP reiterates its stand on the constitutional provision and will discuss this with all stakeholders and remains committed to the abrogation of this article.” This has raised the hackles of Omar Abdullah and the separatists.

The manifesto also assured the return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood. This figures high on the BJP’s agenda.

In a total reversal of the UPA and Congress policy the manifesto, in the “Cultural Heritage” section, says that Ram Setu is part of India’s cultural heritage and also of strategic importance due to its vast thorium deposits. These facts will be taken into consideration while taking any decision on Sethusamudram channel project.

Terming the period of UPA I and II as “the decade of decay”, the manifesto said India had a “free fall” on all fronts, including governance, economy, diplomacy, foreign policy, border safety, etc.

At the same time, corruption, scams and crime against women have reached “unacceptable” level. There has been a gross misuse of government and institutions. There has also been erosion of authority of the office of prime minister. This is what Modi has always been saying.”The government dithered by each passing day casting gloom and doom on the country that was once under the NDA regime called the emerging superpower. Critical and urgent challenges facing the nation have been left unaddressed.

“Beyond impacting the immediate short term, this is corroding the long term potential of the nation. People feel frustrated and have lost hope in the system. Things must change and they must change now. BJP will take immediate and decisive action to address these issues on a priority basis,” it said.

Under the chapter “Reform the System”, the BJP manifesto promised good governance, which will be transparent, effective, involving and encouraging and include reforms of administration, judiciary, police and election.

Corruption, the manifesto, blamed as a manifestation of poor governance.”Moreover, it reflects the bad intentions of those sitting in power. All pervasive corruption under the Congress-led UPA has become a national crisis. “We will establish a system which will eliminate the scope of corruption through public awareness, technology enabled e-governance, system based policy-driven governance, rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime and simplification of the process and procedures at all levels,” the manifesto said.

The manifesto referring to black money said its government will initiate process of tracking down and bringing it back which is stashed in foreign banks and offshore accounts. “We will set up a task force for this purpose and to recommend amendments to existing laws or enact new laws. The process of bringing back black money to India will be put in motion on priority. We will also proactively engage with foreign governments to facilitate information sharing on black money.”

The manifesto promises to give high priority to revival of growth and job creation and for it stress would be on containing inflation, pursue tax reforms and promote foreign investments but said barring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, the party was not opposed to the FDI as it would create employment. “We have chalked out a plan to improve the economic situation in the country in the manifesto. As far as infrastructure is concerned, improving manufacturing is important and it needs to be export oriented.

“We need to create India as a brand because if India innovates, India leads,” Joshi said.

“The sooner we do it the better it would be to generate more jobs.,”

The Congress-led UPA government has been blamed for unleashing “tax terrorism and uncertainty” and engendering 10 years of jobless growth.

It promised to set up a price stabilisation fund to check inflation, ensure fiscal discipline and pursue banking sector reforms to deal with the problem of rising bad loans.”The country has been dragged through 10 years of jobless growth by the Congress-led UPA Government. Under the broader economic revival, BJP will accord high priority to job creation and opportunities for entrepreneurship,” it said while unveiling the road map for the future.

The manifesto promises to create a single ‘National Agriculture Market’ and increase public investment in the farm sector. Referring to taxation, it said, “the UPA government has unleashed ‘Tax terrorism’ and ‘uncertainty’, which not only creates anxiety amongst the business class and negatively impacts the investment climate, but also dents the image of the country.”

Regarding tax reforms it promises a roadmap including focus on a non-adversarial and conducive tax environment, overhaul of the dispute resolution mechanisms, bringing on board all state governments in adopting GST (Goods and Services Tax) and provision for tax incentives to promote investment.

Dealing with “Decision and Policy Paralysis”, the manifesto said the country has suffered a decade of

maladministration and scams in addition to decision and policy paralysis, thus bringing growth and development to a grinding halt leading to a governance deficit.

The BJP said the biggest challenge that India faced today was to restore the credibility of and trust in the Union government. “In recent years, the Union government has lost every semblance of credibility. Its intentions, integrity and initiatives are all questionable. The Congress party has not only lowered the dignity of the government but also the dignity of India.

“The BJP will work for restoring the trust and credibility of the government. We will also ensure that the chain of responsibility and accountability is built in the system.”

It blames the Congress-led UPA government of insensitivity and indifference to the plight of the people tying itself into knots with short term misdirected steps.”Team India will not be limited to the Prime Minister-led Team sitting in Delhi but will also include chief ministers and other functionaries as equal partners.”.

The party pledged to ensure fiscal autonomy of states while urging financial discipline. It will create regional councils of states with common problems and concerns with a view to seeking solutions that are applicable across a group of states.

It promised to encourage cooperation among states on security-related issues, inter-state disputes and removing inter-regional economic disparities and promoting tourism.

Touching on the important and sensitive issue of India’s nuclear doctrine, it said it would be studied in detail and be revised and updated to make it relevant to challenges of current times.

The BJP, in its manifesto, has adopted UPA’s food security scheme and right to education.

The manifesto has been heavily criticized by the Congress, more because it has to run down BJP. But the fact is that it is most comprehensive and without any bias or the intent of divisiveness. For instance it has laid out a specific policy for the north-east which has been simmering for a long time, seeking separation because of sheer neglect by the Centre. Ithas promised “there will be special emphasis on massive infrastructure development, especially along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim”. And added that it would take urgent steps for the safety of the migrant workers and communities from the Northeast and other states.

More than criticism of Congress or the UPA, the manifesto comes out as a document of hope for every Indian. “We will roll out a massive low cost housing programme to ensure that by the time the nation completes 75 years of its Independence, every family will have a pucca house of its own.”

Women are bound to get their Reservation Bill under a BJP government. And to also launch a national campaign for saving the girl child and educating her called “Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao”.

The Congress lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against the BJP claiming that reference to Ayodhya in its manifesto was violation of the model code as it amounted to seeking votes on religious lines. Congress treasurer Motilal Vohra also said that declaration of manifesto on April 7, the polling day in Assam and Tripura was in violation of the provisions of the Representation of the People’s Act and the commission’s instructions.

The Congress has sought action against the party for the alleged violation of the model code and the law.Whatever it might be, the manifesto encompasses a wide range of issues ranging from economic growth to social sector problems. Price rise, corruption, development of infrastructure, education, all-round boost to agriculture, manufacturing and services sector form some of the areas that the BJP manifesto focuses on.

There is no prejudice or divisiveness. It has of course reversed many pet policies and direction of the Congress-led UPA Government. But who would not like to get away as fast as possible from policies that have ruined the economy, brought immeasurable misery to the people, and put the country to great insecurity by the criminal neglect of, the Defence Forces. Delhi is infamous rape capital of India. And India’s prestige has never be lower as it is at present.

Who wants the policies of the out-going government be continued? None! That is why the BJP’s document is called that of Hope!

By Vijay Dutt

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