Election 2014: Manifesto Party
The manifestos of the three chief contenders in the Lok Sabha elections conform to the typical agenda-politicking associated with the parties while promising nothing concrete
Souzeina S Mushtaq Delhi
As the world’s largest democracy gears up for the 16th General Lok Sabha elections, more than 814,500,000 people will be casting their votes of which, 20 per cent will be voting for the first time. The major competing political parties – BJP, Congress and the AAP – released their manifestos recently. Apart from promising to keep a check on inflation and promising growth, the manifestos also talked about water, ecology and environment. Some highlights from the manifestos of the three parties:
Starting with the slogan ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’, the 52-page BJP manifesto was released on 7 April 2014. Focusing on hot topics such as inflation, fiscal prudence and judicial reforms, the party manifesto, which seems to be an expanded version of the ‘Vision of Modi’ document released in January 2014, also promises to protect the cow, build the Ram temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya, besides abrogating Article 370 that gives special status to Jammu & Kashmir.
The preface of the manifesto, signed by Murli Manohar Joshi, quotes Al-Andalusi, a Spanish scholar of the 11th century, which recognizes the wisdom of India and its people. “Indians, as known to all nations for many centuries, are the metal (essence) of wisdom, the source of fairness and objectivity. They are the people of sublime pensiveness, universal apologues, and useful and rare inventions,” it said.
Curiously dated as March 26 – the day Congress released its manifesto – the BJP manifesto has blamed the UPA government for the rising economic disparities, social and communal divide, and terrorism. Calling the leadership of the UPA Government as “weak” and “spineless”, the manifesto said that the Congress-led UPA has made India a global synonym for “corruption, scandal and stagnation.”
Calling itself as the “only natural choice for the people of India”, the 27-page Congress party manifesto gloated about the achievements of the UPA government as well as its own since its inception around 128 years ago. “Congress has made seminal contributions to India’s unity, integrity, secular polity and democratic federalism. We have championed the rights of the weaker sections, created conditions for faster economic growth and have been the principal instrument of social and economic change,” the manifesto read.
In the detailed action plan, the manifesto focuses on inclusive growth, agriculture, education and health. It also promises to expand the rights-based programme, support for farmers, and restoration of real GDP growth to above 8% within the next three years. The members of the party at the release of the document said that the UPA has delivered around 90 per cent of the promises made in 2009. The 2014 manifesto calls for reduction of fiscal deficit to 3% of GDP, creating jobs and ensuring growth, price stability and financial sector reforms, and 100% electricity access in urban areas and 94% in rural areas.
Followed by the release of the Congress manifesto, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) released its 28-page manifesto on 3 April 2014. Living up to its name, the party document focuses on issues of the common people. Promising high quality access to health, quality education, creating decent jobs, promoting honest business, gender justice, the party manifesto talks about almost everything that matters to the aam aadmi of the country.
Party leader and former Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal said that the party’s top four priorities would be to bring its version of the Jan Lokpal Bill, the Swaraj Bill for decentralization of power, simplification of government procedures, and the use of information technology to reduce corruption in government functioning.
While the manifesto called Kashmir as “an integral part of India,” the manifesto also suggested for a “long-term solution to the Naxal problem.” It also recommended integrating economic and environmental policies and creating world-class infrastructure with the participation of the private sector.
A cursory look at the important issues put forward by the three parties:
On the issue of NATIONAL SECURITY, the BJP suggests a clear roadmap. PM candidate Narendra Modi says there would be zero tolerance towards terrorism, extremism, and crime.
The Congress promises to address the challenges of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE), ensuring that police forces are equipped with modern weapons and technology, and safeguarding the development agenda to empower the people in LWE-affected areas.
The AAP manifesto talks about creating locally responsive structures of policing, security and governance and decentralization of power. Review and reformation of laws like AFSPA with zero tolerance towards terrorism.
On the issue of DEFENCE, the BJP manifesto is favourable towards technology transfer in defence manufacturing, besides an independent strategic nuclear programme.
The Congress manifesto promised to ensure a transparent process of procuring state-of-the-art equipment, fresh impetus to upgrading domestic manufacturing capabilities and ensuring welfare of Ex-Servicemen by establishing a "National Commission for Ex-Servicemen".
The AAP manifesto talked about transparency in defence procurement, encouragement of indigenous production of weapons, and securing borders through better infrastructure.
On the issue of GOVERNANCE, the BJP manifesto promised to directly reach out to the people through pro-active, pro-people policies, good governance, and also digitize government records to make them easily available.
Congress manifesto promises on giving the highest priority to ensure accessibility and transparency in governance systems. It also promised to implement the recommendations of the second Administrative Reforms Commission.
The AAP manifesto promised to decentralize power, making Gram Sabhas and Mohalla Sabhas more effective. It also promised to ensure humane and accountable policing.
On the issue of FDI, the BJP manifesto opposes foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, effectively setting the stage for a rollback of this policy. Congress manifesto said FDI in multi-brand retail would bring better returns to farmers.
The AAP manifesto said, like the BJP, it is completely opposed to FDI in retail.
On the issue of ECONOMY, the BJP manifesto promises to check price rise, create employment and encourage entrepreneurship. It also focuses on controlling corruption and removing policy paralysis.
The Congress manifesto promises to increase growth rate by 8 per cent in three years, zero aversion to foreign investment, and aims to create 10 crore new jobs.
The AAP manifesto emphasizes on more jobs, controlling price rise and empowering the common people, bringing back black money from abroad, and simplifying taxation system.
On the issue of EDUCATION, the BJP manifesto says it would take steps to create an enabling ecosystem of equal opportunity for education by reviving the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, restructuring UGC into a Higher Education Commission, online vocational training, and skill mapping.
The Congress manifesto encouraged quality education and sports infrastructure in India besides creating a National Sports Education University to nurture talent.
The AAP manifesto promised equitable access to quality education for all, special provisions for girls, and establishment of institutions like IITs and AIIMS.
On the issues of MINORITIES, the BJP manifesto talked of strengthening and modernizing minority educational systems and institutions, and initiating a national madrassa modernization programme.
The Congress manifesto talked about accelerating concrete, sustainable and long-term plans for the minorities like providing scholarships, reservations in educational institutions, passing of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill.
The AAP manifesto promised to end police harassment of Muslims, supported reservation, zero tolerance towards communalism and promoting understanding between communities through dialogue, interaction and cultural exchanges.