If you read the mainstream media coverage of BJP manifesto for GE 2019, you might think they talk about nothing but cows, Islamic terror and Article 370 or Ram Mandir. If you need a dose of truth, read on!
BTW the manifesto in English PDF format can be found at [this] (https://images.indianexpress.com/2019/04/bjp-election-2019-english.pdf) (and many other) URLs.
Mainstream media coverage
- You might have noticed, once Congress released its manifesto there was widespread celebration in the media. It was as if releasing a manifesto was in of itself a major accomplishment and nothing much needs to be done. Of course, the same fearless journalists that lecture on unbiased journalism never raised any questions on Congress’ track record in implementing past promises or the crucial details of new promises which appear to be overly ambitious to put it mildly.
- But then this is India and while yours truly will not live that long, we are pretty sure some of those reading this will witness Priyanka Gandhi’s grandson as Congress chief, stake claim to eradicate poverty and demand his ten years in the PM chair, just as his great great granny and all his forefathers and mothers did. And Deccand Herald or Hindu will write an editorial applauding this dedication to the poor.
- To be fair, Hindu’s editorial following the publication of Congress manifesto was soemwhat balanced. You can read the editorial [here] (https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/words-and-deeds/article26726090.ece)
- But then it left it to its “special correspondents” to do the heavy lifting. In fact even a Jha or Aiyar couldn’t have improved on the excellent propaganda done in the name of journalism by Hindu’s Varghese George who often outputs such fine samples of “fearless critical journalism that seeks to question and doesn’t blindly accept what’s given”. You can read it here
- Filled with self serving quotes from Congress politians wrapped up as commentary, it even turned the usual topic headings women, employment, etc. (Similar headings of classifcations also present in BJP’s manifesto) into propaganda material, expecting readers to “reimagine themselves in verticals”.
- As if that level of subservience is not sufficient (for what, one may ask), it even adopts Congress verbiage - referring to BJP’s promises as “jumla”, this time not even without the fig leaf of quoting Congress mouthpieces!. Such is the desperation!
- And in case Mr. George left any part of his job half done, there was the great “public intellectual” Shiv Visvanathan, until recently employed by Jindal linked university, apparently with ample spare time to spend attacking Modi in various opinion pieces in Hindu & elesewhere but stay mum on coal allotment scam, providing his masala filled with anti-BJP barbs and sycophantic coverage of Congress manifesto! You can read it here.
- BJP’s manifesto is about 45 pages long. If you ignore the pages filled with pictures and other such “marketing” collateral, the effective pages are less.
- It starts with Modi’s message - two pages. Terror finds no mention until the seventh paragraph, that too without any mention of Islamist terror or Pakistan.
- Amit Shah’s message too has only passing mention of surgical strike and air strike, buried amidst a host of other claims of achievement.
- Rajnath Singh’s two pager does not even mention anything about any of these topics!
- In fact the word “Pakistan” appears only twice in the entire document, that too in the context of J&K. Islam or Islamist doesn’t appear at all, and Muslim is mentioned only twice - once in the promise of “development with dignity” for all minorities. And the other re triple talaq.
- The pet topics that gets Stalinist left propagandists aka liberals frothing in the mouth occupy only two pages in the detailed manifesto. Of course, it is the first 2 pages, on National security.
- About 27 pages are for other secular topics such as farmers, women, youth, education etc., verticals Varghese expects voters to “re-imagine themselves” when seen in Congress’s document.
Our comments on BJP’s Manifesto
- We will confine ourselves to criticism of the manifesto, leaving all the “good” stuff to others.
- We would love to see more commitment to ease of doing business - rollback of stifling regulation, ridiculous compliance norms, over zealous tax officials chasing quotas and much worse. The only specific promise is about amending the Companies Act on some compliance issues, which is too little. Much more needs to be done. Why are startups and even big companies running away to Hongkong or Singapore to seek funds, incoroporate global subsidiaries and expand? Why not here? Our babus have setup a web of compliance nightmare that chases them away.
- For example MCI has recently introduced another KYC form which requires directors to upload a picture of themselves in front of their offices, certified by a CA! Any foreign investor that looks at such things will laugh his head off and run a mile in tight shoes to stay away from India. The fine for not doing? Rs.10000! This form is over and above various other such forms introduced in the recent years in the name of fight against corruption. One wonders if the government has sufficient manpower to even read one in a thousand of each such form filled, let alone chase after non compliance!
- We wish BJP promises to setup a high powered committe to recommend, within 3 months, a list of forms, filings, regulations and red tape it can abholish or unwind with immediate effect and without affecting real compliance in any manner. We should benchmark ourselves with Singapore not India of 60s.
- In its misplaced zeal to go after UPA era dacoity, NDA regime has unleashed what can only be described as tax terror that harasses thousands of genuine entrepreneurs and businessmen, traps them with useless forms and procedures, while the corrupt remain happily out of jail lecturing us on “Idea of India”. Will this stop?
- The Health department of the manifesto is too light. Just setting up medical colleges will not do much to reduce the crippling burden of health care which our poor and middle classes suffer. Any serious illness such as cancer or accidents or even chronic illness like diabetes curses entire families to poverty. More primary, secondary health care facilities, hospitals, preventive care etc, the list is long. We wish to see more.
- Valuable political brownie points could have been scored highlighting the deliberate neglect of such basic health care by corrupt dynastic rule along with primary education and sanitation.
- Education for All is a nice topic heading but contents are too light. We need good public education system that competes effectively with private sector and yet provides it nearly free. This is the only way to keep costs low and provide chance to millions of poor to step up to the next level at least from the next generation. Very little of the manifesto gives us any comfort in this topic. There is no point tying down the private sector in paperwork or beating them to make it look like the poor are being served. That has been the dynasty approach. This can be effectively countered with genuine steps that benefit the poor in this area.