When it was finally released Monday, the BJP manifesto came with a definite imprint of the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, including three personal assurances by him — to work hard to the end, to never act in “bad faith” and to never ever act out of self interest.
“The party has bestowed me with certain responsibility. I want to make three promises personally – I will never be found wanting on hard work, I will not do anything for myself and I will not do anything with bad intent,” Modi said at launch of the much-awaited election document.
The BJP manifesto is so closely based on Modi’s views that it seems like an expanded version of a document titled ‘Vision of Modi’ that was widely circulated at a BJP strategy meeting in January.
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The idea of starting an IIT and AIIMS in all states, a Beti Bachao programme, building 100 smart cities besides focus on twin cities and satellite cities, a golden quadrilateral of bullet trains – christened diamond quadrilateral in the manifesto – a price stabilisation fund to check inflation, a national agriculture market, preventive health care for all, besides the interlinking of rivers, were all part of Modi’s “vision”.
Even Modi’s focus on “Brand India”, which emphasises on what he calls the 5Ts – talent, trade, tradition, tourism and technology – gets a place in the manifesto.
The centrality of Modi is further underlined in the manifesto which also resonates with what he has been saying in recent speeches.
While stopping short of announcing a special package for West Bengal and Bihar, the manifesto talks of regional disparities between the western and eastern parts of India, just like Modi has been.
“Despite their richness in both natural as well as human resources, the eastern part of India still lags behind. We shall give the highest priority towards bringing the eastern parts of the country on par with the western parts…there shall be special focus and emphasis on the development of the eastern side of India,” the manifesto promises.
One of Modi’s newer ideas, expressed at an interaction with lawyers led by Ram Jethmalani, of developing India into a “global hub for arbitration and legal process outsourcing” is a part of the BJP’s plans to overhaul the judicial system. Modi had talked of plans to set up LPOs or legal process outsourcing firms during his interaction with the lawyers.
On police reforms, the manifesto talks of bringing “coastal states together on a common platform to discuss the issue of marine policing”, another theme that interests Modi.
The manifesto also promises an agri-rail network – train wagons designed to cater to the specific needs of perishable agricultural products such as milk and vegetables – and “lightweight wagons for salt movement”.
Modi’s home state of Gujarat contributes to almost 76 per cent of India’s salt output.
The manifesto also promises to replicate and implement nationwide the Gujarat scheme of ‘E-gram, Vishwa Gram’ – a national e-governance plan to cover every government office from the Centre to panchayats.
The manifesto had been delayed by several days, sparking speculation that there were differences over its content between Modi and the manifesto panel headed by Murli Manohar Joshi.
Joshi, however, brushed aside questions about them Monday.
Backed with a manifesto that articulates his worldview, Modi promised good governance and all-inclusive, nationwide development that will pull India out from the “ditch of despondency and inaction” he said it is currently stuck in.
He said the manifesto is not an election ritual but “our direction, our goal and our commitment”. Indicating a “zero tolerance” on internal and external security, Modi said the need of the hour is to bring a “strong government in New Delhi”.
“No one should be able to bully India…we should be able to look everyone in the eye, others should want to talk to us,” Modi said, as party president Rajnath Singh and even senior leader L K Advani rallied behind him.
Advani said that of the last 16 elections he had witnessed, he found this one under Modi most unique and unprecedented.
“I compare the era after independence, the politics and now the time which will be under Modi and I feel very delighted…I can say from the preparation of manifesto to the shape of campaign and inauguration of manifesto, it is all unprecedented. It will be difficult to find fault,” Advani said.
Reinforcing the predominance and wider acceptability of Modi at the event, Rajnath Singh said that when BJP projected him as its PM candidate, many political parties treated him as an “untouchable” in politics and claimed that no other political leader had faced as much criticism as Modi.
Today, Singh said, as many as 25 political parties had allied with the party. Singh also said this manifesto was not just a formality but a pledge that his party will fulfill if voted to power.