It was an uncharacteristically sedate Prime Minister Narendra Modi who unveiled the BJP’s manifesto or the ‘Sankalp Patra’, as the party prefers to call it, barely three days before the first phase of voting for Lok Sabha elections on April 11.
The manifesto is a revelation that the BJP is unapologetic in its pursuit of an aggressive national security policy and reiterated its commitment to oust illegal immigrants by completing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process at the earliest, and also the enactment of Citizenship Amendment Bill. The BJP also stuck to the controversial issue of abrogation of Article 370 and annulment of Article 35A of the Constitution that ensures a special status for Jammu and Kashmir.
While the party has refrained from making any big-ticket announcement – something to match Congress’s NYAY scheme – the 45-page document is littered with socialist promises aimed at the farmers and alleviating rural distress. Some of the resolutions are new like pension for small and marginal farmers after the age of 60 to ensure their social security. Others are aimed at strengthening the existing schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana and the Fasal Bima Yojana.
On one hand, as the party promises to expand the social security net for the poor and farmers, it has also announced a capital investment of Rs 100 lakh crore in the infrastructure sector by 2024. This is aimed at giving a thrust to the country’s economy and creating a roadmap for a $ 5 trillion economy. Also, as PM Modi announced, to make India a developed country from a perpetually developing one by 2047, when it completes 100 years of independence.
BJP leaders say that not making tall promises has been a deliberate and well-thought-out strategy. “In 2014, we were in Opposition and had to come to power. Promises were necessary. This time we have a proven track record. That’s what we have to sell and underline. Our biggest promise is PM Modi,” says a party general secretary. And it also helps the BJP to increasingly make the electoral battle a Presidential one.
True enough, only Prime Minister Modi’s picture finds a place on the cover of the manifesto. Inside too there are pictures and quotes only of the PM. Even BJP president Amit Shah does not find a place on the cover. In stark contrast, the 2014 manifesto of the BJP had pictures of all senior leaders prominently displayed on the cover. These include late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, and then BJP chief ministers Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Raman Singh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Manohar Parrikar.
The 2019 Sankalp Patra has also tried to placate the disenchanted middle class and the small and medium traders, who form the core constituency of the BJP. Without making any concrete promise, the document talks about improving compliance of income tax policy, rewarding honest tax-payers and lowering of the income tax rate. For the traders, the manifesto assures continued simplification of the GST process by engaging in dialogue with all stakeholders. It also promises a National Traders’ Welfare Board and a National Policy for Retail Trade.