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What the BJP's Manifesto Doesn't Say – And the Congress's Does

You can see the Congress promises crystal clear. You will have to delve into the realm of faith to gather the precious gems from the sea of BJP's manifesto.    
The frontpages of the two manifestos.

The BJP has produced a splendid manifesto, if elections are all about beautiful photographs – sparkling, colourful, creative images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nobody can question Modi’s photogenic panache; he weaves star-like magic before the camera, be it a solo walk on the bridge or a soldier’s swagger with the fighter plane, or a priestly appearance in the temple. The manifesto has it all.

But if there is more to politics and elections than photographs, the manifesto disappoints. It lacks specifics, is deficient in content and vision, and relies on Modi’s charisma to satiate voters’ cravings. It neither explains in definitive terms what the Modi government achieved in the last 10 years, nor offers a substantial blueprint for the future. In fact, the Congress has won this battle hands down, with its concrete 25-point programme to improve the lives of farmers, workers, women and youth, in addition to a clear roadmap for social justice.

You can see the Congress promises crystal clear. You will have to transcend the mundane barriers and delve into the realm of faith to gather the precious gems from the sea of BJP’s manifesto.

A screengrab of Modi’s letter in the BJP’s manifesto.

The Prime Minister’s letter that the manifesto carries itself betrays lack of specifics. He says, “With your trust and support, the nation has seen a massive transformation over the last ten years. While development attained an unprecedented speed and scale, a significant transformation has also happened in terms of mindset. Today, our youth are speaking of creating Viksit Bharat by 2047 as a goal that is attainable, as a milestone that will certainly be reached. The nation is confident on its journey of becoming self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar). This is a big change from the atmosphere of desperation and frustration that the nation had experienced in the decade prior to 2014 due to the corruption, policy paralysis and misrule by the government of those times.”

Rahul Gandhi reacted by saying, “Two words are missing from Modi’s speeches and BJP manifesto – mahngai aur berozgari. The BJP doesn’t even want to discuss the most important issues connected with people’s lives. INDIA’s plan is clear – 30 lakh vacancies will be filled and every educated youth will get an apprenticeship with Rs one lakh. The youth will fall for Modi’s deceptive ploys this time and bring job revolution by strengthening the Congress hand.”

Congress spokespersons also slammed the BJP for vague promises, without specifying their vision and action plan. They also reeled out the BJP’s unfulfilled promises that look like an unending list.

The casual manner in which the BJP drafted its manifesto reveals they care little about this sacred pre-election document which was earlier supposed to be the basis on which the voters make up their mind. While the Congress constituted its manifesto committee in December 2023 and prepared the document after an elaborate consultation with the people, the BJP set up a committee on March 30 and released the manifesto today in less than two weeks, indicating that they do not win elections on the strength of a document.

BJP did not even make a feeble attempt to match the alluring guarantees of the Congress, leave apart showing any sincerity about the promises they made in 2014, like bringing back black money, creating two crore jobs every year, doubling farmers’ income by 2022, house-for-all…etc.

Also read: When Modi Promised Voters ‘Vikas’ in 2014, He Meant Spectacle and Not Substance

The “achchhe din” – good days – metaphor has been buried and the party is now presenting these as achievements: “80+ crore citizens are receiving free rations since 2020, 50+ crore citizens have joined the banking system, Rs 34 lakh crore directly transferred to people’s accounts, 34+ crore citizens are receiving free health insurance under Ayushman Bharat, 4+ crore families now have pucca houses, 14+ crore families have access to clean tap water.”

The Prime Minister’s credibility has taken a beating over the last decade. He gave the slogan – “bahut hui mahngai ki maar, abki baar Modi sarkar” – and went on to sell gas cylinders previously described as costly at Rs 450, for Rs 1,150. He pushed petrol-diesel prices towards Rs 100, while pulses and edible oil crossed Rs 200. He poured scorn on the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh, when rupee touched 70 against a dollar and remained silent when it peaked to 84. He knows getting into specifics could be a dangerous game and hence chose to sell dreams of a developed India in 2047. In response, the Congress told the BJP that the manifesto is meant for five years and Modi should have presented a report card instead of fooling the people after ruling the country for 10 years.

If the Congress has promised a law for Minimum Support Price, the BJP manifesto says 11 crore farmers are receiving Rs 6,000 annually and MSP has seen an unprecedented hike. If the Congress promised Rs 1 lakh every year to poor women and 50% reservation for women in government jobs, the BJP manifesto presents Ujjwala Yojana, the abolition of triple talaq and toilets as steps to empower women.

The question of job creation has not been dealt with seriously; the promise of filling vacancies looks like a cruel joke after the party has been 10 years in power. The manifesto claims “zero major terror attacks in any city since 2014”, as if attacks on Air Force base in Pathankot, the one at Pulwama in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed, and the one at the military headquarters in Uri are not to be counted or remembered. Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said 3,950 people, including both security personnel and civilians, have been killed between 2014 and 2023, according to official figures. She also questioned the decision to avoid issues like Chinese intrusion, Manipur, the closure of MSMEs. She said questions were not taken at the press conference to release the manifesto because the BJP was afraid of truth coming out.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge also responded to the BJP manifesto, saying, “No accountability for old guarantees, only recycling of hollow rhetoric. Modi’s guarantee means downpour of jumlas. What happened to two crore jobs every year? What happened to doubling of farmers’ income? MSP for farmers with 50% profit? Rs 15 lakh in every account? Promise to stop atrocities on women, Dalits, Adivasis? What about 100 Smart Cities, bullet trains, cleaning of Ganga and five trillion dollar economy by 2022? What about red eyes to China?”

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