India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) yesterday announced its manifesto for the upcoming 17th Lok Sabha parliamentary elections promising passage of Citizenship Amendment Bill which offers citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The ruling party made 75 pledges to fulfill “peoples’ expectations” visibly in its efforts to balance nationalist policies with development talk, three days ahead of the start of elections.
“Nationalism is our inspiration,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after releasing the BJP"s election manifesto, the "Sankalp Patra" at its headquarters in New Delhi, as supporters chanted “Modi, Modi”. Narendra Modi vowed to spend more than $1.4 trillion on new infrastructure over five years to create much-needed jobs and to pursue his nationalist agenda if he wins the election that starts this week.
Bharatiya Janata Party also promised $300 billion for the country"s hard-pressed farmers and rural development as it went all out to stop voters being tempted by opposition parties in the world"s biggest election that runs from Thursday until May 19. The rightwing party said it was committed to build a grand temple for Hindu god Rama “as soon as possible in a harmonious way” and pass a citizenship bill that would grant Indian nationality to Hindus from neighbouring countries.
Simultaneously the party pledged to revise
income tax brackets to help the middle-class saying it would also extend an annual handout of 6,000 rupees (US$86) and introduce a pension scheme for small and marginal farmers infuse more than US$300 billion for rural development.
“We are committed to further revise the tax slabs and the tax benefits to ensure more cash and greater purchasing power in the hands of our middle income families,” the BJP said.
Uniform Civil Code, border security and a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism are some of the other key features of the manifesto, read out by Union Minister Rajnath Singh in presence of Modi, party chief Amit Shah and its parliamentary board members.
Political analysts expected BJP to retain power after the general election but with a much smaller mandate India amid concerns over a shortage of jobs and weak farm prices.
BJP announced its "Sankalp Patra" a week after its main rival Indian National Congress unveiled its manifesto with its president Rahul Gandhi promising to introduce Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) — generating job opportunities for 400,000 youths, presenting a separate “Kisan Budget” every year and doubling education budget.
The two parties, however, announced simultaneously their campaign themes in the capital yesterday, four days before the first phase of polling begins in 91 constituencies under 20 states.
BJP"s campaign theme is “Phir Ek Baar, Modi Sarkar” (A Modi government again) while the Congress"s is “Ab Hoga NYAY” (Justice now, but also a play on the party"s promised income guarantee scheme NYAY).
Modi told the manifesto launching ceremony that India would conduct all trade movement with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan through integrated check-posts after completion of 14 more such check-posts by next four years.
He said that BJP would focus on creation of developmental and other necessary infrastructure in border areas to ensure frontier security and ensure the frontier regions enhanced stake in India"s development. But it vowed to strip decades-old special rights from the people of Jammu and Kashmir, as BJP consistently advocated an end to Kashmir"s special constitutional status, which prevents outsiders from buying property there, arguing that such laws have hindered its integration with the rest of India.
The BJP manifesto, however, said the party would take forward India"s "Neighbourhood First" policy “by extensively leveraging forums such as BIMSTEC to accelerate regional coordination and economic co-operation with countries in our neighborhood.