Contentious issues such as the construction of a RamTemple in Ayodhya, abrogation of Art 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir and enactment of Uniform Civil Code have been included in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto with the party making promises on them.
The 52-page document, released among others by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at the party headquarters in New Delhi, also pledged to provide good governance and inclusive development.
"The BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya," the manifesto, delayed by a fortnight, said.
Asked about the reported differences within the party over inclusion of the Ram Temple issue, Murli Manohar Joshi, chairman of the manifesto committee, said, "Whatever is there s there in the manifesto. If you want to write something on the basis of your own perceptions, you are free to do".
The release of the manifesto came on the opening day of the 9-phased Lok Sabha elections drawing criticism from rivals. There was speculation that Modi had reservations over the document drafted by Joshi and that the pet themes of Sangh Parivar may not figure in it in view of Modi's stress on development in the current campaign.
Asked if the party was trying to confuse voters by including RamTemple and whether this could be called raking up Hindutva, Joshi said, "This has nothing to do with Hindutva or athva (otherwise). This is only a promise of development programme."
He said Hindutva has never been an election issue and added the manifesto was based on issues of development and governance.
"We have put it in the section on "cultural heritage". What is culturally important for us we have said," Joshi said referring to the promise on RamTemple. He added the issue had been included in the previous election manifesto too and the party's stand remained unchanged.
On Uniform Civil Code, the manifesto said Art 44 of the Constitution lists Uniform Civil Code as one of the directive principles of the state policy. "The BJP believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time India adopts a UCC which protects the rights of all women and the BJP reiterates its stand to draft a UCC drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with modern times," said the document.
Dealing with Art 370 in the chapter on Jammu and Kashmir, the manifesto said, "The BJP reiterates its stand on the Constitution provision and will discuss this with all stakeholders and remains committed to the abrogation of this article."
Return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood will figure hight on the BJP's agenda, it said. In the "Cultural Heritage" section, the manifesto says that Ram Setu is part of our cultural heritage and also of strategic importance due to its vast thorium deposits. These facts will be taken into consideration while taking any decision on Sethusamudram channel project."
Terming the period of the United Progressive Alliance I and II as "the decade of decay", the manifesto said India had a "free fall" on all fronts, including governance, economy, diplomacy, foreign policy, border safety, etc.
At the same time, corruption, scams and crime against women have been reached "unacceptable" level. There has been a gross misuse of government and institutions. There has also been erosion of authority of the office of prime minister.
"The government dithered by each passing day casting gloom and doom on the country that was once under the national Democratic Alliance regime called the emerging superpower. Critical and urgent challenges facing the nation have been left unaddressed.
"Beyond impacting the immediate short term, this is corroding the long term potential of the nation. People feel frustrated and have lost hope in the system. Things must change and they must change now. BJP will take immediate and decisive action to address these issues on a priority basis," it said.
Under the chapter "Reform the System", the BJP manifesto promised good governance, which will be transparent, effective, involving and encouraging and include reforms of administration, judiciary, police and election. Corruption, the manifesto, said is a manifestation of poor governance. "Moreover, it reflects the bad intentions of those sitting in power. All pervasive corruption under the Congress-led UPA has become a national crisis.
"We will establish a system which will eliminate the scope of corruption through public awareness, technology enabled e-governance, system based policy-driven governance, rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime and simplification of the process and procedures at all levels," the manifesto said.
Referring to the black money issue, the BJP document said its government will initiate process of tracking down and bringing back the black money stashed in foreign banks and offshore accounts. "We will set up a task force for this purpose and to recommend amendments to existing laws or enact new laws. The process of bringing back black money to India will be put in motion on priority. We will also proactively engage with foreign governments to facilitate information sharing on black money."
Giving high priority to revival of growth and job creation, the party promised to contain inflation, pursue tax reforms and promote foreign investments but would continue to oppose FDI in multi-brand retail while welcoming foreign investment.
The manifesto accused the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government of unleashing 'tax terrorism and uncertainty' and engendering 10 years of jobless growth.
It promised to set up a Price Stabilisation Fund to check inflation, ensure fiscal discipline and pursue banking sector reforms to deal with the problem of rising bad loans. "The country has been dragged through 10 years of jobless growth by the Congress-led UPA Government. Under the broader economic revival, BJP will accord high priority to job creation and opportunities for entrepreneurship," it said while unveiling the road map for the future.
With regard to the agriculture sector, the manifesto promises to create a single 'National Agriculture Market' and increase public investment in the farm sector. Referring to taxation, it said, "the UPA government government has unleashed 'Tax terrorism' and 'uncertainty', which not only creates anxiety amongst the business class and negatively impacts the investment climate, but also dents the image of the country."
Promising tax reforms, BJP said its tax policy roadmap include focus on a non-adversarial and conducive tax environment, overhaul of the dispute resolution mechanisms, bringing on board all state governments in adopting GST (Goods and Services Tax) and provision for tax incentives to promote investment.
Dealing with "Decision and Policy Paralysis", the manifesto said the country has suffered a decade of maladministration and scams in addition to decision and policy paralysis, thus bringing growth and development to a grinding halt leading to a governance deficit.
"This situation will be changed and the engine of government will be ignited again with strong will power and commitment to public interest. We will also encourage the bureaucracy to take right decisions and contribute their might in building a modern India," it said.
The BJP said the biggest challenge that India faced today was to restore the credibility of and trust in the Union government. "In recent years, the Union government has lost every semblance of credibility. Its intentions, integrity and initiatives are all questionable. The Congress party has not only lowered the dignity of the government but also the dignity of India.
"The BJP will work for restoring the trust and credibility of the government. We will also ensure that the chain of responsibility and accountability is built in the system," it said.
On price rise, the manifesto said the runaway food inflation has crippled household budgets and contributed to overall inflationary trend. "However, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has remained insensitive and indifferent to the plight of the people tying itself into knots with short term misdirected steps," it said.
On employment, the BJP accused the UPA government of "dragging" the country through 10 years of jobless growth. The party promised to accord high priority to job creation and opportunities for entrepreneurship.
The BJP will strategically develop high-impact domains such as labour-intensive manufacturing and tourism. It will also strengthen the traditional employment basis of agriculture and allied industries and retail through modernisation as well as stronger credit and market linkages.
Propounding a "Team India" concept, the BJP said the genuine grievances of every state will be addressed in a comprehensive manner and it will place Centre-State relations on an even keel through the process of consultation.
"Team India will not be limited to the prime minister-led Team sitting in Delhi but will also include chief ministers and other functionaries as equal partners," it said. The party pledged to ensure fiscal autonomy of states while urging financial discipline. It will create regional councils of states with common problems and concerns with a view to seeking solutions that are applicable across a group of states.
It promised to encourage cooperation among states on security-related issues, inter-state disputes and removing inter-regional economic disparities and promoting tourism.
The moribund forums such as the National Development Council and Inter-State Council will be revived and made into active bodies," the manifesto said and promised to involve state governments in the promotion of foreign trade and commerce. It will also help states mobilise resources through investments in industry, agriculture and infrastructure," the manifesto said.