The ruling BJP released its manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections recently. Expectedly, it is full of praise for the Prime Minister Modi and his govt. Also, it is bristling with wild promises, some repetitions of their 2014 pledges, some new ones.
But there are two notable aspects of this document. One is the wholesale inclusion of the RSS inspired agenda. The second is the shocking omission to address most of the key issues facing the people of the country.
The RSS Agenda
The BJP manifesto asserts the party’s commitment to a package of issues that are solely inspired by its mentor, the RSS. This is done because all else – schemes, projects, legislations, institutions - is just a means of achieving the kind of society that RSS wants. This is the core belief system of Modi and his govt.
The BJP reiterates its commitment to building the Ram Temple at Ayodhya, bring in the Uniform Civil Code, and abrogate Art 370 and annull Art 35 A, both pertaining to J&K. These issues were there last time too (except 35A). In addition, the Manifesto asserts that the party, if voted to power, will bring back the Citizenship Amendment Bill, contest the Sabrimala issue the Supreme Court by properly presenting the “subject of faith, tradition and worship rituals” in the shrine. It further asserts that they will “secure constitutional protection on issues related to faith and belief”.
So, there you have it. All the pet divisive and communally inspired issues that fly against the Constitution itself, seek to inflame religious hatred and drag India backward into medieval darkness are official aims of the BJP. The hollowness of “sabka saath, sabka vikas” is nowhere more clearly visible.
One difference from the previous election is the prominence given to “national security”. This – in BJP’s weird world - means whipping up fear of Pakistan and terrorism. After the recent Balakot air strikes, BJP has suddenly discovered that this plank could be a vote catcher, by callously using people’s genuine feelings of patriotism. So, the manifesto starts with “zero tolerance” towards terrorism and goes on to talk about strengthening armed forces, self-reliance in defense, combating infiltration, etc. CAB is part of this section, showing how BJP links all terrorism and national security issues with Muslims – CAB prevents only Muslim refugees from becoming Indian citizens.
All this talk is so much hot air because – terrorist incidents have actually increased 176% in J&K under five years of Modi rule; deaths of security personnel increased by 93% and those of civilians by 35%, all according to a reply given by the state home minister in Lok Sabha on 31 December 2018.
Between 2014 and 2018, 1482 civilians and 813 security personnel were killed in various terrorist/extremist actions across the country. It is a travesty that with this black record PM Modi is today trying to seek votes from the people in the name of security and zero tolerance.
Even as the PM was selling away the country’s defense sector to foreign companies like Rafale, his party is claiming self-reliance!
Dalits or Social Justice
Apart from saying that “We are committed to ensure benefits of constitutional provisions of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and backward classes” the BJP and Modi’s government has nothing to say on rising atrocities on Dalits and Adivasis, the declining job opportunities due to privatisation, and the series of judicial or executive acts of commission or omission that restricted the basic rights of Dalits and Adivasis, India’s most oppressed communities. In fact, social justice is not mentioned even once in the whole manifesto.
Scheduled Castes are mentioned at only one place and that too, clubbed with the 10% reservation for economically weaker sections, almost as if they were feeling shy of addressing the burning issue of caste oppression.
Coming in the context of the past five years when dozens of Dalit youth were lynched for transporting cattle or handling their carcasses, when countrywide protests ignited after the apex court diluted the sole law for protection against atrocities, when social injustice in higher education centres was glaringly highlighted by the suicide of Rohit Vemula and when Dalit youth unemployment is raging – this omission is not just an admission of failure. It is tantamount to a confession by the BJP that it is not really concerned about Dalits, or with caste oppression. In fact, this too is in line with RSS thinking.
Joblessness is running at a 45-year high and among educated youth it is at an all-time high. Modi, infamously, promised two crore jobs every year while seeking votes in the 2014 election campaign. Yet, the country has been through its worst jobs crisis in his watch. Opinion Surveys have been consistently showing that unemployment (or under-employment) is the single biggest worry of voters across the country.
Yet, the BJP’s 2019 manifesto brazenly ignores this crisis that is destroying lives across the country. While talking about the economy, there is no mention of jobs! While talking about youth, it says that BJP will create “new opportunities of employment by providing more support to the 22 major 'Champion Sectors'”; while talking about women, it says BJP will “encourage industries and corporates to generate better employment opportunities for women”; and so on. “Encourage” and “support” industries, Mr.Modi? Lakhs of crore rupees worth of corporate concessions and bank loans have been given to big industry but all they have resulted in is job losses. Meanwhile, demonetisation, GST and increased imports have destroyed the small and medium sector, causing a flood of jobless people on the streets. Agriculture continues to reel under crisis and people can’t earn anything from it. The only mantra for Modi is Mudra loans, which the Manifesto promises to continue. But these have not created many jobs.
The bankruptcy of BJP on the jobs issue is an indication of the crisis of India’s whole economic system. The ruling classes have no answer to the endemic lack of jobs, which they use to keep down wages. That is why the Congress too, in its manifesto, has been unable to provide any vision for creating employment.
Much is written in the BJP manifesto on farmers and agriculture - all based on either falsehoods or wild promises. It makes the usual claim that minimum crop prices have now been raised to 1.5 times the production cost, something that the BJP promised in 2014. This is nothing but a brazen lie. What they have done is to fiddle with the calculation by using a lower production cost (leaving out rent and interest costs). So, support prices are still not giving enough returns. Even today farmers are deeply distressed due to crashing prices. Reports from around the country confirm the farmers’deep anger and distress.
The lynchpin of BJP’s agricultural agenda is another tired jumla – doubling farmers’ income. In the face of an all-pervading agrarian crisis, with crop prices falling, wages of agri-workers declining and input prices going up, farm incomes have stagnated. Yet, the Modi govt. continues to pose the doubling promise as if it will reassure farmers.
In addition, they have thrown in a whole lot of wild promises like infusion of Rs.25 lakh crore in the sector, giving pensions to all 12.5 crore small and marginal farmers, extending the PM KISAN scheme to all farmers and interest free loans for five years. Why they did not do these things in the five years gone by is something that farmers are bound to ask? And, why should farmers believe them now?
Black Money & Corruption
Remember the 2014 campaign promise of bringing back black money from abroad? Remember demonetisation, which was supposed to kill all black money? Remember ‘chowkidar’ Modi who promised to protect the treasury? All that is gone now, except the bizarre moniker chowkidar which prefixes the Twitter handles of Modi and his senior party colleagues. The 2019 manifesto has a small section on corruption free India which ironically boasts of enacting the Economic Fugitives Act - when leading bank fraudsters like Mallya and Nirav Modi, along with some 40 others are currently happily settled abroad. It mentions a few other measures and, that’s it.
The real mentality of BJP’s thinking is revealed in the open letter to 130 crore Indians penned by Modi himself that precedes the text of the manifesto. Talking about corruption, he writes that middlemen no longer roam the corridors of power and – note this – 8 crore fake beneficiaries have been eliminated by Aadhar and Jan Dhan. That corruption and cronyism have become rampant is evident from Rafale and various Adani sweet deals, but using a patently false figure of fake beneficiaries as an example of corruption? Does Modi know that 56 people have starved to death in the country out of which at least 25 were due to Aadhar non-compliance issues? For Modi, this is what the fight against corruption got reduced to.
The BJP manifesto is a khichri of paralysed thinking and regressive ideology, marinated in a broth of lies. The BJP alliance should be voted out of power.