Poised to win over 350 seats in the Indian Parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance has swept the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to lead a second term at the centre. But will NDA 2.0 deliver on the promises it made in its campaign manifesto?
With the BJP securing this historic mandate and well on its way to forming the next Indian government, its sketchy history with keeping election promises has fuelled rabid speculation in the newsrooms: Will NDA 2.0 deliver on the promises enlisted in the party manifesto this time? Can anyone even remember what they were, over the din of campaigning and electioneering?
While the country’s 17th prime minister Narendra Modi convenes with his Cabinet over the new government’s 100-day plan, here’s a checklist for lawmakers as well as the Indian voter, of promises made by the ruling party on the campaign trail.
Boost national security
Throughout its campaign, the BJP sculpted a sentiment around security and nationalism to swing public opinion. Its manifesto or “Sankalp Patra” was no different.
Beginning with the party’s focus on zero tolerance for terrorism and outlining its defence policies, the document then goes on to pledge action on jobs crisis and farmers, economic growth and development, youth in governance, and women empowerment if elected to power.
In a bid to improve defence infrastructure, the party has promised to purchase “outstanding defence-related equipment and weapons.” Once again, it champions the ‘Make in India’ programme for defence equipment. The ongoing hearings against alleged government misdealings on the Rafale deal and the failure of a work-share agreement therein, should not be forgotten in light of the landslide victory.
Alleviate farmers’ woes
For farmers, the BJP has reiterated its PM-KISAN scheme introduced in the Interim budget, besides promising a voluntary insurance scheme, improved quality seeds, and an investment of Rs 25 lakh crore in agriculture.
Farm loan waiver or lowering of the Minimum Support Price (MSP), two of the key demands by farmers agitating all over the country, do not form a part of the BJP’s document.
Instead, Union Minister Rajnath Singh had announced that farmers will get interest-free loans worth Rs 1 lakh for five years. Small and marginal farmers will also receive pensions.
Infrastructure and healthcare
Work on 31 irrigation projects, and digitisation of land records through Aadhaar can also be expected to be complete by the end of 2024. Concrete houses, piped water connections, optical fibre internet connections, and greater road connectivity will be attained as part of rural development.
The BJP further promised a Rs 100-lakh crore investment in infrastructure, which includes building 60,000 kilometres of national highways, operationalising 100 new airports and modernising 400 railway stations.
It is worth noting that thousands of forest-dwelling families are being evicted for the lack of proper land deeds; meanwhile, in Maharashtra and Gujarat, indigenous communities, activists and farmers are protesting the government’s approval for the bullet train project, which risks deforesting acres of mangroves.
In their manifesto, the BJP also promises to strengthen the country’s healthcare through more health benefits for poor families and expansion of medical colleges.
Coming to the controversial pledges
The BJP has vowed to implement the Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) that led to massive outrage and controversy last year, because it awards citizenship to only Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh refugees in the Northeast.
The party has also promised to annul Article 35A, which protects the permanent residency of Kashmiris in the state. It will also “combat infiltration” by completing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to keep out “illegal immigrants” as well as establish Smart Fencing for border security. This will preserve the cultural and linguistic identity of the country, some of the BJP’s senior leaders have said.
The party said it will also institute a Uniform Civil Code for gender equality and build a Ram temple.
“We will explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution and all necessary efforts to facilitate the expeditious construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya,” says the party. The manifesto adds that it will ensure rituals related to the Sabarimala temple are safeguarded.
These words are identical to the 2014 manifesto’s policy on the Ram temple issue. However, the Supreme Court has ordered mediation for the resolution of the communal dispute. It has also lifted the ban on women’s entry to Sabarimala.
For women, Dalits, and the earth
For women, the party has promised a 33% reservation in the Parliament and state assemblies. Education and security of women receive cursory mentions.
It has also said it will recognise the 11 Gorkha sub-tribes as Scheduled Tribes and implement reservations for the Limboo and Tamang Tribes in Sikkim. No mention is made of the PRC status which fuelled violence in Arunachal Pradesh last year.
The document also eludes mention of rights, interests and protection of the LGBTQ+ community, nor does it promise amendments to the heavily criticised Transgender Bill introduced last year. Issues like surveillance and data protection laws are also missing for the party’s poll document.
The manifesto has, however, included environment protection policies for the Himalayan region and cities with air pollution. There is no clear and comprehensive plan of action to combat climate emergency, or how the funds of the Clean Ganga Fund are/to be used.
BJP’s victory is already proving to be a boost to business sentiment and a great impetus for private investment. But it is worth recalling that India’s economic growth touched a five-year low of 7% in 2018-19. So there are also challenges of considerable challenges, not only of boosting economic growth and creating jobs on a mass scale.
The party in its manifesto laid out its development agenda, including steps to make India a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025.
“We aspire to make India the third largest economy of the world by 2030. This implies that we commit to make India a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025 and USD 10 trillion economy by 2032,” the 48-page document said.
“By 2024, we will make capital investment of Rs 100 lakh crore in the infrastructure sector. We recognise that investment driven growth requires cheaper cost of capital.
“By anchoring inflation at 4 per cent and cleaning up our banking system we have created the space for structural reduction in the cost of capital. This will not only help infrastructure investment but investment also in the wider economy,” the BJP has said.
Like in 2014, the BJP has promised lower tax rates to ensure more cash and greater purchasing power in the hands of our middle-income families. At the same time, it will broaden the tax base and revise tax slabs by ensuring people comply with the laws and don’t avoid tax duties. In the Interim Budget, the NDA government made income up to Rs 5 lakh tax-free.
According to the latest manifesto, it will also simplify the GST regulations.
In another cost-cutting measure, the party has proposed a ‘One Nation One Poll’ concept; this calls for polling across the country on one single day instead of over months in phases. It has also suggested a Single Voter List to streamline all elections.
While the BJP looks poised to win over 300 seats in the Parliament by itself, the onus is on PM Modi, Amit Shah and their ministers to deliver on its lofty promises—making India a developed nation by 2047, a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025, one of the five richest nations in the world.
Public mandate has deemed the NDA fit to retain power and there is no disputing that. Policymakers who have been at the helm over the last five years ought sense the nation’s priorities better by now—jobs and loans for farmers are among the most desirable actions the government can take at this point.
That said, the power and confidence people have bestowed on the BJP ought to come with a check. Makers of New India must ask themselves: Are some of the pledges even compatible with the country’s future needs and secular vision enshrined in its Constitution?
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius.
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