With Narendra Modi's imprint reflecting in its promises and words, the BJP's manifesto is likely to make a major pitch to reach out to the youth with its assurance of "jobs, jobs and jobs" as it lays out its plans for an ambitious infrastructure development programme. The manifesto, which is being released on Monday after a surprisingly long delay in view of last-minute pruning and rewriting of the document, revolves around the prime ministerial candidate's vision of boosting economic growth.
With Modi favouring a crisp and less verbose document, party sources said the document, which had initially run into 150 pages, was first cut down to 60 pages and then shortened further. A Reuters report hinted that Modi may bring in large-scale Thatcherite-type privatisation measures, but there is no confirmation. Such drastic measures are unlikely to find mention in the manifesto though there might be hints.
The manifesto committee is headed by Murli Manohar Joshi, but he hardly had anything to contribute. The document is believed to have been written by party ideologue and senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta under the direction of Arun Jaitley.
Chanting the Modi mantra, the document may echo some of his pet slogans, projecting itself as one which "tells the world India Can and India Will", "puts India First" and aims at "improving the quality of life of every family".
The BJP may also revive some of its old promises like river linking and cleaning rivers. Under Atal Bihari Vajpayee's leadership, the BJP had promised in its 2004 manifesto that the party will deal with the challenge of water on a war-footing with a three-pronged approach which included a River-Linking Project, encouragement for micro initiatives and cleaning up of rivers and traditional water bodies.
But, it is the youth and first-time voters who could grab a large slice of BJP's attention. The document is expected to promise low interest in education loans, emphasise on skill development beyond formal education and create jobs and opportunities for every Indian. Modi, while unveiling his vision during the BJP's national conference in January, had said that every state should not only have have IITs, IIMs and AIIMS, but also host skill-development centres through ITIs. The party's 2004 manifesto had spoken of unleashing "yuva shakti". Modi had also identified five Ts of Brand India-- talent, trade, tradition, tourism and technology—all of which could find a place in its governance agenda.
Besides, the party may assure job intensive manufacturing, connectivity between every village and the rest of the world, village level fibre optic network and digitisation of ancient text from all languages. While it talks of ways of putting India on the high growth trajectory, the BJP will pledge "development for all", underscoring its commitment to inclusive growth through social welfare and "compassion". For farmers, the party is likely to unwrap its ideas for making agriculture more productive and profitable.
The party's vision on security is expected to reflect in the document. For the BJP, a robust economy is key to a strong and secure India. The party has been emphasising on defence preparedness, state-of-the-art police force with a much bigger presence of women and keeping pace with developments abroad to fight wars in the virtual world.
Like its Modi-centric campaign, the manifesto is also expected to highlight the Gujarat chief minister as it promises the electorate that he is a leader they can "trust". Words like trust, believe, employment, dignity and India first, familiar by now in Modi's speeches, may underline the theme of the manifesto.
While contentious issues like Ram Mandir, uniform civil code and Article 370, are likely to find a passing reference in the development-focused manifesto, the party is likely to keep in mind sensitivities of some of its new and potential allies. The party, which is releasing its manifesto on the first day of polling (Assam and Tripura go to polls on Monday), is toying with the idea of putting its "Vision Document 2025" out for public debate. Modi, party
sources said, did not want documents to be overlapping and was of the view that with the manifesto laying out the party's agenda for the next five years, the vision document should be a continuous process. The Vision Document, a long-term plan compiled by a team led by Nitin Gadkari, could be put on the party website to invite comments from the public, sources said.
The party's "charge sheet against the UPA" was released on Friday. The manifesto was earlier to be released on April 3. However, party leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the manifesto was being released as per plan. "Our party is forming the government, so all eyes are on its manifesto. It will be dealing with socio-economic issues, development, internal and external security based on which the party will perform," he said.