BJP’s Sankalp Patra: Key Promises
The party just released its manifesto for the general election on April 8.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on April 8 released its manifesto for the upcoming general elections. Titled Sankalp Patra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it a document promising good governance, security, and prosperity of the country. While releasing the document, BJP national president Amit Shah said India has become a great power now. He also used the opportunity to hit out at the Congress, saying that India had slipped in the eyes of the world while the UPA was in power, from 2004 to 2014.
This comes several days after the Congress released its manifesto. Other political parties have also released their manifestos before the BJP. The party said that the manifesto reflected “people’s Mann Ki Baat”. Here are the key promises made by the manifesto:
Article 370 and 35A
On this, the manifesto reads, “We are committed to overcome all obstacles that come in the way of development and provide adequate financial resources to all the regions of the state. We reiterate our position since the time of the Jan Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370. We are committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir. We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state. We will take all steps to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for all residents of the state. We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits.”
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution gives autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. Article 35A empowers the state legislature to define who can be a permanent resident of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents who are excluded for non-permanent residents. This has been a sticking point for the BJP and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for a long time. However, despite this opposition, the BJP had formed a coalition government with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. PDP is a staunch believer of these two articles. The government did not last its term.
Doubling farmers’ income by 2022
The manifesto has promised that the BJP will work to double farmers' income by 2022. This, they believe, can be achieved and have declared a few schemes. This includes the PM KISAN scheme which was launched in the Budget 2019, a pension scheme for small and marginal farmers. Apart from that, it promises to introduce interest free kisan credit card loans which offer short term agriculture loans at 0 per cent interest rate for one to five years on the condition of prompt repayment of the principal amount. It has also promised an investment of Rs 25 lakh crore investments in the agri-rural sector.
The farming sector is causing much anxiety to the BJP. The party promised to implement the MS Swaminathan Committee’s recommendations and increase the Maximum Selling Price (MSP) when it came to power in 2014. Things have not exactly gone to plan with the agrarian sector in crisis. Furthermore, policies like demonetisation have had an adverse impact on agriculture. Farmers have repeatedly taken to the streets in large numbers to protest against their condition in the last five years.
Citizenship Amendment Bill
The manifesto has also affirmed the party’s commitment to the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The bill will ostensibly protect individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution. This has been a pet project to both the BJP and RSS. But this, along with National Register of Citizens (NRC) has caused much controversy, especially in the Northeast.
The issue has caused a lot of problems for the BJP and they are definitely worried that it will impact its electoral chances in the Northeast; which is why the manifesto promises that all efforts will be made to clarify the issues to the sections of the population from the Northeastern states who have expressed apprehension regarding it. The party also committed to protecting the linguistic, cultural, and social identity of the people of Northeast. However, it also reiterated the party’s commitment to the NRC.
National security and welfare of soldiers
Another key promise made by the manifesto has been about national security and soldier welfare. National security has been a pet issue for the BJP and the party repeatedly attacks its rivals over it. As a result, the party retains the muscular approach to the topic. Following the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and Balakot exercise, the party will be keen to project strength. As a result, the manifesto promises to speed up the purchases of outstanding defence-related equipment and weapons, modernising the armed forces and improving their strike capabilities.
It has also committed to the welfare of the veterans with the implementation of the long-delayed One Rank, One Pension (OROP) scheme. To take this commitment forward, the party promised to create a more effective framework for the resettlement of armed forces veterans. This issue has caused problems for the BJP. In 2014, the party made OROP a key issue. After coming to power, they decided on a framework which was not acceptable to a lot of veterans. Furthermore, the delay in implementing that as well has just contributed to anger.
The manifesto says that the BJP will explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution and make all necessary efforts to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. This has been a poll issue for the party for a long time now. In 2014 as well, the issue found mention in the party’s manifesto.
However, the issue is right now sub judice. A verdict by the Supreme Court is expected soon. While the party had used the Ayodhya Ram Janambhoomi movement to emerge as a major political player in the 90s, how much impact it will have now is debatable. The BJP tried to whip up emotions about the Ram Temple in the run up to the election, only to quietly drop it later. A new generation of voters have emerged who were born after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. So is it still a big issue?