New Delhi, April 7 :
Taking up issues ranging from economic revival to protecting cows and Ram temple, the much delayed manifesto of the BJP Monday promised “immediate and decisive action” to revive the country from the “decade of decay” of the UPA.
It however did not miss out on the core ideological issues of the party, mentioning construction of Ram temple, removal of Article 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir in the constitution and protection of the cow and its progeny.
The Bharatiya Janata Party also promised modernizing ‘madrasas’ (seminaries) and working for giving equal opportunities to minorities.
The Congress, which leads the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), dismissed the manifesto as a “copied document”. Congress president Sonia Gandhi said it proved BJP “is a threat to India’s integrity and unity”.
The Congress also went to the Election Commission saying that the manifesto’s release was violation of the model code of conduct and urged the panel to pass orders to stop its publicity and circulation.
In a surprise clarification from the stage after the manifesto release, Modi assured he would “never do anything with wrong intent”.
“I will never do anything for myself ever and I will never do anything with wrong intent… I assure you,” he declared, without elaboration though its meaning was left to varying interpretations.
“If I have to summarize our manifesto in two words, I will say: good governance and development,” Modi added, his voice a little hoarse from the many election speeches he has been giving all over the country.
The manifesto lists “price rise, corruption, black money and policy paralysis” as imminent issues to be addressed.
Talking in details on the economic front, the BJP promised better infrastructure and stability in prices and taxation, while adding that it was in favour of FDI but not in multi-brand retail.
“Barring the multi-brand retail sector, foreign direct investment will be allowed in sectors wherever needed for job and asset creation,” the party manifesto said.
BJP manifesto committee chief Murli Manohar Joshi said it also focused on decentralization of power and creation of a “representative and participatory democracy”. Education finds a prominent mention, with the party promising “world class institutions” when it comes to power.
The party also pledged to “revise and update” India’s nuclear doctrine, observing that the strategic gains acquired by the party-led NDA regime were “frittered away” by the Congress, and unveiled a foreign policy that would stress on “mending equations” and ties with neighbours.
On infrastructure, it said: “India should no longer be limited by its infrastructure. For this purpose, we have to devote ourselves for a decade”.
Trying to address minorities, BJP promised to “strengthen and modernize minority educational systems and institutions” and initiating a “national Madrasa modernization programme”.
“It is unfortunate that even after several decades of independence, a large section of the minority, and especially Muslim community continues to be stymied in poverty. Modern India must be a nation of equal opportunity,” BJP said.
Not letting go of the controversial Ram temple issue, that has been communally divisive for the country, the BJP manifesto said: “BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the constitution to facilitate the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya”.
Asked if the party was trying give the manifesto a religious tone, Joshi said: “Hindutva is not an election issue for us. This is an issue which is of cultural importance to us.”
The manifesto release was missed by party leader Arun Jaitley, who was filing his nomination from Amritsar, and former party presidents M. Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, both reportedly busy with election campaigns.
While the BJP bigwigs put up a united show, an iciness between the key leaders was evident on the dais shared by Modi, president Rajnath Singh, party veteran L.K. Advani, Lok Sabha Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Joshi.