Election manifestos are not often taken seriously by people. Parties once used to be judged by the policies and promises offered in their manifestos.
But the gap between promises and practice has increased so much in the past that people are now cynical about them.
However, they still give an idea of the thinking in parties on many issues and serve as statements of intent.
The intent may depend on the electoral demands on the parties and related compulsions, which may change once they come to power.
No one will consider the BJP’s manifesto also as containing commandments which will be followed religiously if the party comes to power.
It is doubtful if the entire party itself was agreed on all the ideas in the manifesto and on the way they were put forward.
That is clear from the delay in finalising and releasing the document, which saw the light of day only on the first day of polling in the country.
Many of the promises made in the manifesto are not new.
Increasing the growth rate, containing price rise and boosting employment, improving infrastructure, strengthening national security and restoring the country’s position in the international community are all expected promises from the main national opposition party, especially because the ruling government failed on most of these counts.
But the details of policies which will help accomplish these objectives are not very clear in the document.
There are contradictions also.
While the BJP is agreeable to foreign direct investment in all sectors, it is against FDI in retail.
There is no reason why FDI is bad only in retail, except that the BJP has a following among small traders in the north.
That should not influence national policy priorities.
It will also send a message of policy inconsistency about the country to investors and others.
Accepted national policies, backed by parliament sanction, should not be thrown out on the basis of narrow considerations.
There is a greater emphasis on issues related to governance than on policies as such because the UPA government’s biggest failure was in this area.
Some of the BJP’s core concerns like the Ram Janmabhoomi temple, uniform civil code and abrogation of Article 370 have been moved to the background or presented in different terms.
But the fact remains that the party cannot disavow them too.
In many ways, there is more of Modi’s mind than the party’s heart in the manifesto.