Here’s What The Covers Of The BJP’s And The Congress’ Manifestos Reveal
A breakdown of what the covers signify.
Much has been said and written about the content of the Congress’ and BJP’s manifestos, from the former’s NYAY scheme to the latter’s promise of giving the armed forces a ‘free hand’ when it comes to dealing with terrorists.
Let us go beyond the content to the first thing we all see when we look at both documents: The cover.
The Congress manifesto cover is dominated by the promise that the “Congress Will Deliver”. This is in line with what the party wants to convey: Vote for us and we will keep our promises.
This is an expected approach for a party that wants to come to power. It is not burdened by showing off its achievements. For example, the Congress has the liberty to pick and choose those UPA I and II schemes that worked – like MGNREGA and NRLM – while promising new things at the same time.
It is also an indirect hit at the ruling government for its bombastic promises. The example oft-cited by the Congress itself is PM Modi’s promise of bringing back black money, which will then be given to each citizen. Fifteen lakhs per person, to be precise.
The BJP manifesto cover, however, is dominated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He looms large over the words “Sankalp Patra” – a letter of promise.
I admit that as a non-Hindi speaker, I had to ask what “Sankalp Patra” meant. Is this an indication that the BJP is more concerned with the voters in the northern Hindi belt? Is this its attempt to not be ‘elitist’ with the use of English words?
One thing, though, is clear. The saffron party is going to fight this election with PM Modi as their main plank. The cult of the demagogue – that Modi seems to inspire – is what they hope to harness.
Interestingly, this is in sharp contrast to the BJP’s own manifesto cover in 2014.
Five years ago, the then Prime Ministerial candidate is not alone. On the left side of the (overtly) saffron cover, BJP veterans Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi are placed vertically. Now, the first has passed away, the second and last have been sidelined, while Rajnath Singh has been given one picture inside the 2019 manifesto.
At the centre of the 2014 cover, you see Narendra Modi. But he is flanked by key party leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Raman Singh, Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and Vasundhara Raje.
Of course, leaders like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh, and Vasundhara Raje have since then lost their states to the Congress. MP, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan were won by the Congress party in a tight contest last year. So it would make sense to leave them out now.
At the bottom of the Congress manifesto, there is a band where the party’s hand symbol comes first followed by a picture of a smiling Rahul Gandhi, and then the words “Manifesto, Lok Sabha Elections 2019, Indian National Congress”.
In the backdrop of all of this, is a picture of a sea of people: The people of India.
The messaging is clear: Vote for the Congress as this manifesto is for the people; the Congress will deliver on its promises with Rahul Gandhi being a small part of a larger picture.
The BJP’s cover also has the slogan “Sankalpit Bharat, Sashakt Bharat” – Determined India, Empowered India. Again, the use of Hindi on its English cover.
The BJP’s messaging is also clear: Vote for Modi if you want a strong and empowered India. This is a logical extension of the party’s posturing since the Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot airstrike. The idea is that the BJP is the only party that is determined enough to show the world that India will not be soft when it comes to terrorism.
Perhaps, some of us may write the covers off as design elements meant only to serve an aesthetic purpose. But, it would be prudent to remember that these days, nothing is left to chance. Everything from Twitter trends to what leaders wear is calibrated to the T.
The covers of the manifestos, which tell the people what the two biggest political parties are promising for the future, will definitely not be left to chance.