BJP’s Manifesto: The winners and the duds

BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi with party president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Lal Krishna Advani at the BJP manifesto release. AFP

BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi with party president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Lal Krishna Advani at the BJP manifesto release. AFP

Amongst much hullaballoo and speculation, the BJP manifesto was finally unveiled by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi earlier this morning. While detractors of the BJP and opposition parties cashed in on the absence of a party manifesto in their respective rallies, the party seems to be the one having the last laugh. Let’s have a look at some of the winners and the duds in the manifesto.

Ram Mandir (Nay) – Why oh why, BJP? Why the secularism card again? We’ve had enough of the Hindu v/s Muslim politics played out in our country. Building a Ram Mandir on a controversial piece of land should be the least of your concerns in a country where 32.7% of the population is below the poverty line. While we have no opposition to building a temple (or a mosque, church, Gurudwara for that matter) there wasn’t a real need to put this up in your manifesto.

Tackling corruption (Yay) – Although there isn’t much of a procedural insight on how they’ll achieve this claim, the BJP has made it one of the salient points. It vows to deal with corruption by using technology to bridge the gap between the citizens and the Government and also introducing the concept of e-Governance. Also more transparency is on the cards with a system-based, policy-driven Government.

More Urbanization (Nay) – Development is a good thing, we agree. But creating 100 more cities is somewhat, we feel, of an over enthusiastic attempt to connect to the urban section of voters. India’s primary strength is its agrarian-based economy – something the BJP does recognize with its other points in the manifesto. Building more townships is a recipe for disaster in a lot of areas; maintenance being one of them. Although, on paper it does sound like a great plan we feel the BJP should stick to developing what’s already there rather than innovate on new infrastructural models for the country.

All matters rural (Yay) – In direct contrast to the point on urbanization, the BJP has decided to alleviate poverty while concentrating on both, agricultural and rural development. Sanitation measures, access to latest technology like broadband, electricity supply, infrastructural improvement in villages are some of the measures proposed.  Cheaper agricultural inputs and credit, use of technology in agriculture, ensuring a minimum profit of 50% over production are some of the key suggestions the party deems to undertake, once in power.

Economy’s the King (Yay) – Curbing the inflation by setting up of Special Courts to monitor black marketing and hoarding, leveraging technology to provide farmers with data regarding costs, production, procurement and availability are the proposed steps to rein in inflation. Entrepreneurship will also be given a steady boost – both in rural and urban areas, by encouraging labour intensive operations (tourism, textiles, and agriculture to name a few). The party also plans to transform its Employment exchanges into Career Centres by providing training and counselling youth and streamlining them into the jobs as per the skillset. Tax incentives for investment in the RnD sector to boost technology and innovation, overhauling the dispute resolution mechanisms, implementation of GST by all state governments are some measures that the BJP plans to undertake to make the tax environment conducive.

Show me the money (Yay) – Black money stashed away offshore is proposed to be brought back with setup of a special Task Force and making appropriate amendments to regulations or forming new laws, whichever be the requirement. After Julius Assange’s WikiLeaks, we’re hoping the Indian version is as interesting.

Accountability (Nay) – While it is a good thing, there is no clear way as to how the BJP is going to make itself more accountable and responsible. Clearing bottlenecks and missing links is fine on paper, but implementation is a different ball game. We’ll believe it, when we see it!

Overall, the BJP manifesto seems to put forth some interesting ideas, though like other party manifestos there isn’t much of an elaboration on the “How they’re going to achieve it” part on most points. Even then, a question still remains: How true is the party to its manifesto? As for the answer, we’ll have to wait and watch.