EDITORIAL | Shoddy manifesto shows BJP attitude

Prime Minister Narendra Modi presents the BJP election manifesto in New Delhi on April 8, 2019. STR/AFP

The BJP’s election manifesto, released just three days before polling starts, emphasises national security, ultra-nationalism and the party’s ideological fetishes, and targets the aspirational sections of the population, who are most amenable to promises and easily swayed by them. The manifesto shows how the party’s strategy has changed from 2014, when the key words were ‘growth’, ‘development’, ‘achhe din’ and ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’. It starts with a section called ‘Nation First’, which focuses on national security, positing terrorism as the main issue. Every controversial and divisive item on the party’s agenda — abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, construction of Ram temple, women’s entry into Sabarimala, Citizenship Bill, extension of the National Register of Citizens to the entire country and implementation of a uniform civil code — finds prime place in the manifesto. They are meant to inflame some sections of the people and polarise society, and that is the BJP’s electoral strategy in this election. 

The manifesto reflects the current campaign of the party, which arrogates to itself most aggressively the role of the defender of the nation and, in fact, overwrites its 2014 manifesto. It has avoided reference to job creation, solving farmers’ distress and other past promises, which could embarrass the party as the government’s record is not worth writing about. The party has made no attempt to compete with the Congress, which has made an offer to provide Rs 72,000 a year as income support to the poorest families in the country. But it has made separate promises for different sections of people, like the extension of the PM-Kisan Yojna to all farmers, pension for small farmers and traders and more generous income tax slabs for tax payers. The party has reiterated the promise of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, though the farmer’s condition has only worsened since 2014. Then there are the mega promises and dreams — Rs 100 lakh crore spending on infrastructure in five years, making India a $10 trillion economy by 2032. The party had asked how Congress would finance its minimum income plan, but it has not specified where the money would come from for its much bigger plans. 

It seems the BJP has not taken its manifesto seriously. It is so casually written that in one place, it states “laws in order to commit crimes against women’’. The document is full of spelling errors, showing that it is a shoddy, last-minute job. Perhaps the party thinks that it does not need a manifesto to make a commitment to voters but has made one only as a perfunctory gesture to political custom. For the BJP, Modi is the message. When it has the man, what need of a manifesto?

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EDITORIAL | Shoddy manifesto shows BJP attitude

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