BJP manifesto is about growth, not divisiveness
True to form, the secularist brigade has latched on to the promises of abrogating Article 370, facilitating the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and the introduction of a Uniform Civil Code, that the Bharatiya Janata Party has made in its manifesto, to dub the party as one driven by a divisive agenda. That nothing could be farther from the truth is of no consequence to this group, which only wants to raise false alarms. The three promises have been part of the BJP's commitment since long, and they were there even when the National Democratic Alliance which it leads had been power from 1998 to 2004. Yet, none of the fears of the secularists came true. They are unlikely to now if the BJP-led coalition comes to power. One reason will, of course, be the common minimum programme which will provide the direction in which the NDA will govern. The other reason is that the BJP is not threatening unconstitutional measures to realise these assurances. It has made clear — as it had done on earlier occasions —that it believes in adhering to the due process of law to achieve its goals. Anyway, the issues of a Ram temple, Uniform Civil Code and Article 370 are not the focus of the manifesto. As the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the manifesto panel head Murli Manohar Joshi have emphasised, the manifesto's stress is largely on good governance and all-round socio-economic development. The manifesto has laid bare the philosophy, intent and commitment of the party on accelerating growth and containing inflation. It has promised the establishment of a Price Stabilisation Fund that will take care of rising prices of essential goods; it has assured to get the consent of States for the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax regime; it has promised to end “tax terrorism” and “uncertainty” —clear hints that considerable tax reforms and the abolishment of retrospective taxation can be expected.
The manifesto has also promised to set up a common National Agriculture Market to provide a fillip to the farm sector. The party has also talked of setting up a mechanism to tackle the menace of black money. These are important measures which are needed to get the country's economy out of the mess the Congress-led UPA Government has landed it in. Party poopers may point out that the manifesto has categorically ruled out foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, but that does not take away from the BJP's commitment to FDI in many other sectors that are in more need of the funds. Besides, the BJP has promised greater fiscal autonomy to the States and revival of the importance of the National Development Council. The States have been asking for these, and in vain, from the incumbent Government at the Centre. Economic revival, job-creation and better Centre-State relations are, thus, the real takeaways of the manifesto, and not what the BJP's rivals are claiming.