While the Election Commission may have given the go ahead to the BJP to release its manifesto on the first day of polling, but the delay in the release of the document has only fed the speculation of a possible division in the party.
Apart from its stand on issues like the Ram Mandir, Article 370 and the Uniform Civil Code, the manifesto doesn’t read too different from what the ruling Congress party has promised in its own document, say critics. The Congress has even gone to the extent of claiming that the BJP has copied its document.
So is there a dramatic new idea that the BJP speaks of in their manifesto?
“The big idea is that Narendra Modi will make an impact on the elections, and Narendra Modi’s big idea is Narendra Modi,” author Shankar Aiyyar said during a debate on CNN-IBN show India at 9.
“They have a brand and product that has been projected as both the solution and the idea. Take the face of Modi away from the BJP manifesto, and put it on the Congress manifesto the optics will change. The collapse of governance in the last few years has made the persona of Modi so attractive,” Aiyyar said.
“The country is facing inflation because the UPA pumped in too much money and couldn’t deliver on the outcomes. Now Modi says he will deliver efficiently, and that is the difference. But they haven’t mentioned how they will reduce the deficit, but then no other party has either,” he said.
Despite the skepticism, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Modi will actually deliver on the promises that have been made in the document.
“Ek Bharat shreshth Bharat is our big idea.
Congress spokesperson Rajeev Gowda was expectedly critical of the opposition party’s manifesto.
“This is 40-50 pages of camouflage and is just about Hindutva issues. They say foreign investment, but not in multi-brand retail. They opposed goods and services tax, and now they want to implement that,” he said.
“We have kept India’s economic growth moving forward in times of economic troubles. We have paid attention to people at the bottom of the pyramid, who the BJP wont pay attention to in their run for crony capitalism,” Gowda claimed.
Prasad retorted by saying that the BJP believed in delivery and their track record showed it.
“India is too wise to fall for the hyperbole of Congress. The larger issue is the way India has been governed. The BJP will provide a corruptio-free India. For the last 13 years Modi has held the helm in Gujarat, and it has never been questioned,” he said.
Prasad attempted defended the the late release of the manifesto saying it was purely due to logistical reasons.
“Logistical problem of availability of all leaders delayed the manifesto. On a day when our manifesto has been appreciated, the release date is a mundane issue,” the BJP spokesperson said.
However, N Ram of The Hindu said he did not buy such an explanation and there must have been a rift in the party over the document.
“I don’t buy the explanation.
The senior journalist questioned the need for the BJP to bring in the issues of the Ram temple, Article 370 of the Constitution on Kashmir and the Uniform Civil Code.
“If the issue today is employment and inflation, then why put those other things in? From 1999-2004 these things — Ram Temple, Hindutva — found no place at all in BJP, and they did very well for themselves,” Ram said.
The BJP claims that the elections will be fought only on core issues like corruption, development and inflation.
“On the Ram Janmabhoomi issue, the Allahabad High Court has stated that Muslims have failed to provide proof, this is an issue of our faith,” he said.
“We speak of article of 370 because the backward classes in Jammu and Kashmir are not getting benefit from the Mandal commission. This election will be fought only and only on the issues of corruption,” he said.
Some like CNN-IBN’s Bhupendra Choubey feel that the BJP’s manifesto is, like its peers, not rooted in reality.
“It speaks of dreams. It is a dream world manifesto. When we are borrowing 69 crore a day is the BJP supposed to give a time frame for reducing fiscal profligacy?” he said.
The BJP retorted by saying that making promises was part of every elections but it didn’t mean there weren’t any ideas that couldn’t be implemented.
“Occasionally Modi has been voicing ideas during rallies and it has been received well. This manifesto is the embodiment of the ideas,” he said.