BJP Manifesto: High on Rhetoric

Apr 08, 2014
Sitaram Yechury
The BJP has, finally, released its manifesto for the 16th general elections. This clearly is the result of a public outcry that a party that has all but won the election to form the next Government has not spelt out its roadmap on how it shall steer the country’s future. It is unprecedented that it’s manifesto should be released after the polling process has actually begun.  
Be that as it may, the manifesto is full of rhetoric minus the crucial steps that would be undertaken to achieve the stated objectives. Amidst sloganeering, there are only two substantive points that emerge.  The first is the reiteration of the hardcore Hindutva agenda. It has, once again, promised to build the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. However, with a caveat this time that it shall be done within the “Constitution’s framework”!  This begs the question if the destruction of the Babri Masjid was done within the Constitution’s framework?  BJP has reiterated the other demands of a Uniform Civil Code and abrogation of Article 370  of the Constitution.  Since 1996, all BJP election manifestoes, except when it did not issue one in 1999, have highlighted this agenda. The record is, thus, set right.  The BJP is no different today, it cannot be anything else but the political arm of the RSS. A clear declaration to sow deeper the poison of communal polarization and to seek a consolidation of the `Hindu vote bank’.
The second is its economic agenda where it unambiguously states that except for the multi-brand retail sector (more to protect its support base) it shall permit FDI in all sectors including infrastructure and selected defence industries.  It shall “review labour laws” and ease “licensing norms for business”.  It speaks of rationalizing and simplifying the tax regime and the adoption of a national General Sales Tax (GST, which it’s state governments, including Gujarat, have resolutely opposed till now). 
The rest is characteristic double-speak.  The real and the declared intensions of the BJP are entirely different. The BJP’s campaign has been centered around exclusively on projecting its `leader’.  The BJP’s website speaks of `Modi Mantra’ as the panacea for all problems facing our nation  and for a `bright future’. How this will happen,   however, is not supposed to be questioned. The `Gujarat model’ is, we are told, the direction for an unchallengeable bright future of `milk and honey’. A plethora of studies have busted this myth both on the counts of the quality of life of the people in Gujarat and the so-called rapid industrialization and modernization (for a comprehensive coverage, see The Week, April 6, 2014) . 
This last column pointed out that the core of the  `Gujarat model’ is the unprecedented concessions and benefits given to Indian and foreign capital.  No wonder that sections of India Inc. are eager to join the beeline of chorus hailing   this `messiah’.  If such concessions would be doled out all over the country, what a killing of super profits they would make!  Its economic vision is, thus, aimed at accentuating the policies that have already resulted in the growing divide between the two Indias.  What is in store, thus, for the vast mass of our people, if the BJP heads a future government, is heightened misery and agonies of daily life.
The refusal by the BJP’s `leader’ to take any media questions betrays a completely anti-democratic attitude negating their commitment to uphold the Republican values of our Constitution. This is buttressed by the fact that at the ground level, its actual issues of mobilizing people centers around the sharpening of communal polarization as evidenced by the `leader’s’ right arm in Uttar Pradesh recently making inflammatory  speeches calling for a so-called `revenge’. While its public refrain continues to be projecting the issues of development and misgovernance of the UPA.
There is no doubt that  vast sections of our people are expressing their dismay and disgust at the UPA’s policies that have imposed unprecedented burdens on their lives.  There is no question that these have to be rejected.  While the Left has offered its possible solution in an alternative policy trajectory for the country, the BJP has not merely failed to do so but has, in fact, spoken in terms of advancing the same. Both on corruption and economic policies, there is little difference between the Congress and the BJP.
Glimpses of BJP’s real agenda emerge in the preface to it’s much-laboured  manifesto.  It begins by stating “India is the most ancient civilization of the world….” (not one amongst others).  The glory that was once India was lost because after independence, “the leaders at the helm of affairs lost the spirit and the vision”. Therefore, the time has come to “pick up the thread from the point where the continuum of our civilizational consciousness was lost and reorient the polity in consonance with those strong points of Indian psyche which will be the engine for our future glory”.  And this psyche, it says, is “one country, one people and one nation”.
RSS’s guruji, Golwalkar, who chillingly defined its ideological project says, “In Hindustan, the land of the Hindus lives and should live the Hindu nation… only those movements are truly `National’ as aim at rebuilding, revitalizing and emancipating from its present stupor, the Hindu Nation.  Those only are nationalist patriots… all others are either traitors or enemies….”.  The country and the nation hence become the same – that of Hindus alone.
Such an exclusivist vision is the very negation of India’s syncretic civilisational advance in human history.  This breeds poisonous communal polarization that aborts the unfolding of  the `Idea of India’ – a historical regression of the Indian Psyche. This is the real agenda that is in store under a future BJP government.
Clearly, the country and the people require an agenda of alternative policies that the Left has been articulating and campaigning for in these elections.  A future government that will implement such an alternative policy trajectory must, therefore, necessarily have to be firmly committed to fight and defeat the communal menace and strengthen the secular democratic foundations of the Indian Republic.