BJP's 2019 manifesto further hardens its position

By Harihar Swarup. Dated: 4/15/2019 3:13:53 PM

Hindutva remains top agenda, little development

Election manifestos have become a ritual: political parties release them on the eve of poll, both at national level and in state election. So it was in the present general elections in which BJP and the Congress are main contenders. There are also alliances which make their own promises if elected to rule. A galore of attractive promises are made; some practical, some controversial and some difficult to implement. At the end of their tenures, from governments at the centre or states, few promises were fulfilled.
For the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, manifestos of political parties are not known to be statements of political daring, or even political imagination. They go through the routines of re-stating obvious. The Congress manifesto for the upcoming general elections seemed to make a welcome break with pallid tradition. It appeared to have capture that rare thing - a political party in motion, rethinking its old positions, as on AFSPA and on the sedition law, and taking new ones, like on hate crime or a safety net for the poor.
The BJP manifesto goes back to the rites of manifestos, as usual. It reiterates the BJP's stated position on most subjects. Consistency is something a good thing, and the BJP has had a good run at the polls at different levels in the last five years and therefore may arguably not feel the pressure of change, even as the Congress carries the burden of being challenger. Yet, the BJP's apparent refusal to reconsider the positions on important issues includes those on which the limits of its ideological certitudes have been bared in five years in power at the Centre.
The underlining of immovable ideological position begins in the very first chapter in the manifesto titled "nation first', in which after emphasizing its "zero tolerance approach to terrorism", the BJP talks of completing the National Register of Citizens process in Assam and of extending the NRC "in a phased manner" to other parts of the country without showing any acknowledgement of the distortions intrinsic to the process that have come to light. It pledges itself anew to the dangerously misconceived citizenship Amendment Bill which threatens to further polarize and communalize the complex matrix of identities and insecurities in North-East. The section ends with the BJP reiterating its position "since the time of Jana Sangh to abrogate Article 370 and to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution-both of these positions have only deepened the turmoil in the valley in the last few years on the Modi government's watch. Under the section called "cultural heritage", the party repeats its stand on the "expeditious" construction of Ram Mandir, and on Sabarimala, to secure 'constitutional protection on the issues related to faith and belief'.
On the other issues, the BJP's reiterations are welcome. It promises to double farmers' income, and ease the burden on middle classes. It promises investment of Rs. 100 Lakh crore in the infrastructure sector by 2004, pucca houses for all till 2022 and a Jal Jivan Mission. In all the BJP manifesto 2019 does not break new ground and promises continuity even in the promises of change.
The manifesto makes the right noises about boosting exports and helping small and medium enterprises, but is deficient in ideas on how to get there. Even as it is hard to forget that past few years were tough time for these sectors, there is little inkling of the new generation of economic reforms required to boost Indian competiveness. In its 2014 manifesto, BJP had blasted the Congress for "jobless growth" scenario and promised to reverse it. Now the tables are turned. With joblessness at a four-decade high, according to a leaked NSSO report, wriggle room for over-promising and under
The manifesto shies away from bold pronouncements and even scores to "other parts of the country. The old slogans-abrogation of Article 370, including Ram Mandir, enacting Uniform Civil Code, a-figure - this time too, but with, ever-receding influence. In contrast, the few reforms Modi pushed like GST and bankruptcy code have had far-reaching impact. In sticking to populism and Hindutva, BJP signals it is betting on these. A consequent lack of depth is the manifesto's biggest failing.
—(IPA Service)



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