India's opposition lacks manifesto four days from polling

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Gujarat's chief minister, addresses his supporters during a rally ahead of the general election in Itanagar in the northeastern Indian s
Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Gujarat's chief minister, addresses his supporters during a rally ahead of the general election in Itanagar in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh on March 31, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), frontrunner to form the next government, faced criticism on Thursday for failing to release its manifesto just days before polls open.

Reports earlier this week claimed the Hindu nationalists' programme would be unveiled on Thursday, but a party source told AFP it was now highly unlikely to be before Saturday - two days before the first voters cast their ballots.

Some political observers have attributed the delay to internal differences within the party, which is being led by prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, a hardliner from western Gujarat state.

Mr Modi, the favourite to become prime minister, is running on his credentials as the three-times chief minister of Gujarat where he has built a reputation as a hands-on leader and economic reformer.

"A party and leader which claims great administrative and managerial competence is unable to release its manifesto in time," Ms Priyanka Chaturvedi, spokesman for the ruling Congress party, tweeted on Thursday.

"Why is BJP unable to produce even a manifesto on time?" she added.

India's mammoth nine-phase election starts on April 7 and concludes on May 12, with final counting on May 16.

"The main reason (for the delay) is that almost every senior leader who was made part of the manifesto drafting committee is fighting the election, and has been in his or her respective constituency, making it difficult to devote time to the document," a BJP leader told AFP on condition of anonymity on Thursday.

The ruling Congress party released its manifesto on March 26, pledging to create millions of jobs and new social schemes if it is voted back into power for a third consecutive term.

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