India's BJP promises growth, development in election manifesto

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi (4th from right), the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), along with other party leaders holding copies of election manifesto in New Delhi on April 7, 2014. The BJP, widely tipped to form
Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi (4th from right), the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), along with other party leaders holding copies of election manifesto in New Delhi on April 7, 2014. The BJP, widely tipped to form the next government, pledged on Monday to revise the India's nuclear doctrine, whose central principle is that New Delhi would not be the first to use atomic weapons in a conflict. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

THE opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised growth and development with a plan to build 100 new cities and allow foreign investment in various sectors including defence in its manifesto released on the first day of polling on Monday.

The manifesto, a governance plan for the party that is widely tipped to win power after the final phase of polling ends on May 12, also pledges a relook at the country’s nuclear doctrine for both the military and civilian sectors.

As voters in six constituencies in the remote north-eastern states of Assam and Tripura went to the polls, the BJP’s top leadership, including its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and party patriarch L.K. Advani, gathered in the capital New Delhi to release the policy statement.

The BJP’s fortunes, boosted by Mr Modi’s vaunted success as Gujarat state’s governor in growing its economy, have risen as the ruling Congress party in its current term has been hit by a slowing economy, price rises of essential items such as rice and cooking oil and high inflation. Congress’ credibility has also been dented by a string of corruption scandals involving ministers and bureaucrats, from the sale of telecommunications 2g spectrum licences to contracts awarded during the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the allocation of coal mining blocks.

Noting that the manifesto focused on the themes of pushing growth and curbing corruption, Mr Modi said it was not just a piece of document but was also full of promises that would be fullfilled under a BJP government.

“If I have to summarise our manifesto in two words, I will say: good governance and development,” said Mr Modi. “This is not an election ritual. It is not just a document. It reveals our party’s direction, our aim.”

Among its wide range of promises is one to simplify the tax system to make it easier for people to pay taxes. It also plans to attract investors to generate IT-based jobs in both rural and urban areas, increase transparency in the political system to curb corruption, improve the public transport system to discourage the use of private vehicles, and focus on the creation of jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurship.

It also said the BJP would reexamine India’s nuclear doctrine which currently states that India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons against any country.

“We will follow a two-pronged independent nuclear programme, unencumbered by foreign pressure and influence, for civilian and military purposes, especially as nuclear power is a major contributor to India’s energy sector,” said the BJP manifesto.

While introducing new plans, the Hindu nationalist party in its manifesto also has retained its traditional platform. It is reaching out to its core Hindu voters with a promise to look at the construction of a temple to God Ram on a disputed site in the city of Ayodhya.

In 1992, Hindu far-right elements razed a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya to construct a temple on the site they believed to be the birthplace of God Ram. The case on what happens to the land is currently with the Supreme Court.

“BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya,” said the manifesto.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg