Tempering his pro-industry image, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today released the BJP's election manifesto that promises a slew of measures for the uplift of farmers, rural and urban poor and all-inclusive growth.
Releasing the manifesto just 10 days ahead of the first phase of polling scheduled on December 13, Modi also promised to address the issues facing the "neo-middle class", which has risen above the poverty line but cannot yet be categorised as middle class, to enable it reap the benefits of government's welfare schemes.
The manifesto pledged to strengthen agricultural infrastructure and said, if voted to power again, the government would bear 3 per cent of the 7 per cent interest paid by farmers who took agricultural loans.
"Due to development in Gujarat in the last 10 years, there has been substantial rise in this neo-middle class. We want to address their issues. We will form a committee to define this neo middle class. We will try to give them benefits of government schemes," Modi told reporters after releasing the manifesto.
In an apparent bid to counter the Congress' poll assurance of providing land and houses at affordable rates to rural and urban poor respectively, the BJP manifesto said 50 lakh new houses would be constructed for them over the next five years.
Congress' promised scheme of low-cost housing had drawn huge response from the people with thousands queueing up in urban and rural areas to get the forms distributed by the party.
However, when asked if his promise of 50 lakh houses for the poor was aimed at countering the Congress' assurance, Modi evaded a direct reply, saying many parties like Lok Janshakti Party and JD(U) have also released their manifestos.
"Before the last elections, we had promised 20 lakh houses and before this polls, we are promising 50 lakh houses," he said.
Laying emphasis on irrigation and issues related to farmers, the document said 16 lakh hectares of farm land would be brought under irrigation over the next five years and the government would expedite electricity connections.
"Small and marginal farmers pay 7 per cent interest on agricultural loans taken from cooperative organisations. The government will share their burden by paying 3 per cent interest so that the farmers have to pay only the remaining 4 per cent," the manifesto said.
To give a fresh impetus to the agriculture sector, Modi said cold storage facilities and agro-processing units would be set up in every district.
Claiming that annual Vibrant Gujarat Summits aimed at attracting investment for industries were a big success, Modi said now other states were also organising such events.
"Now we will organise a bi-annual world agriculture fare to help farmers learn new technology," Modi said reaching out to the state's large farming community.
BJP manifesto also promised to increase drinking water availability and to double power generation to 30,000 MW.
Modi said a new policy will be formulated for the youth with emphasis on "sports, employment and employability" to bring about a "youth-led development" in the state.
The manifesto said the BJP government was committed to establishing Gujarat’s identity as a "Green" state for which it would set up a Lake and Wetland Development Authority to check pollution and develop the numerous lakes existing in and around villages.
It also said 13 Special Investment Regions (SIR) would be developed and Gujarat would be turned into a fully gas-based economy.
The document said a Right to Services Act would be put in place on the lines of the law enacted by BJP government in Madhya Pradesh to guarantee time-bound delivery of services.