The Bharatiya Janata Party released its party manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on Monday, April 8th. The manifesto was released by the party president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. This year instead of calling it the party ‘manifesto’, the party has decided to name it their ‘Sankalp Patra’. Union minister Sushma Swaraj specifically said that there is a difference between the ‘manifesto’ of other parties and BJP’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ because the Sankalp Patra is more of a ‘pledge document’ and that they are committed to fulfilling their pledges.
NDA came to power in 2014 and their party manifesto gained popularity almost immediately after its release and was widely appreciated for the issues it had talked about and the promises it had made. However, through the course of 5 years, the party has received mixed feedback from the people of the country. Many people who voted for the BJP in 2014 were hugely disappointed because of its communal, autocratic and conservative ideologies and the unaccountable nature of its ministers.
It became evident after the assembly elections of 2018, where the BJP lost to Congress in three major states- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, that the people were not completely satisfied with the government in spite of the charismatic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the crucial issues it talked about and promised to resolve in its party manifesto. So, what went wrong after 2014? Well, here are some highlights of the main promises it had made and most crucial issues raised by the BJP in its 2014 Manifesto:-
In 2014 Narendra Modi promised the citizens a ‘vibrant, corruption-less, transparent and accountable democracy’. However, the dominance of the Hindu nationalists under Prime Minister Narendra Modi – and the manner in which they have ruled – has given rise to claims that India’s democracy and its minorities are in grave danger. The anti-democratic symptoms go beyond the rise of the Hindu nationalist extremists. Groups and individuals who are or who have been claimed to be beef-eaters have been attacked by ‘Gau Rakshaks’ – a term which is a kind of euphemism for criminal gangs sanctioned by forces in civil society to attack Muslims.
In Maharashtra, the names of 40 lakh voters, 17 lakh of which are Muslims and 10 lakh of which are Dalits are missing from the voting lists which can either be seen as a favourable coincidence for the ruling party or can raise questions regarding the misuse of power by it. Journalists who have taken a critical stance in defence of secular values have been harassed or even killed. Gauri Lankesh, a respected journalist, was shot dead in front of her house after she wrote an article criticising the party’s policies.
Government institutions have been captured and their autonomy has been compromised. The CBI fiasco and the resignation of Raghuram Rajan as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, indicate that the Modi government is trying to reduce the separation of powers and to establish a more centralised system of control. Thus, the promise of establishing a vibrant and participatory democracy has not been fulfilled.
The BJP had promised in its manifesto to control inflation and price rise and to open up a price stabilization fund. However, the price of fuel and petrol is at an all-time average high of ₹80/litre across the country. Prices of gram dal have risen by an astounding 75% in the last three years. From an average of about ₹49 per kg at the retail level in May 2014, it has risen to about ₹86 per kg at present. Prices of urad dal have risen by 46% from an average of about ₹68 per kg at the retail level in May 2014 to about ₹99 per kg currently.
This has led to an increasing number of difficulties for the people from the lower economic strata of the society to procure the essentials of their basic and staple diet. After the introduction of the GST, the prices of several important goods and services like butter, edible oil, air conditioners, tea, coffee, banking charges, internet Wi-fi prices have gone up. However, the prices of certain basic amenities like the prices of medicines, soap, hair oil, meat and two-wheelers have declined.
The party’s manifesto promised that the government will create 25 crore jobs over the course of 10 years. That is 2.5 crore jobs every year. In 2016, the party president Amit Shah reduced the promise to 1 crore jobs every year. However, even after reducing the promised number of jobs by 1.5 crores, the reality has been vastly different from what was promised. The leaked NSSO data indicated that the unemployment level of the country is the highest in 45 years. According to a report in The Times Of India, the number of formal sector jobs created between 2014 and 2015 was less than 2.5 lakh. Between 2015 and 2016, there was a sharp decline in the number of jobs, with figures plunging below thousands.
Though the government managed to improve the situation slightly, employment generation took a huge blow in 2016, after demonetisation, figures show. As a result of demonetisation, more than 1.5 million people lost their jobs. Until January 2017, the number of jobs created was less than 2.5 lakh. In more recent times, BSNL, a state-owned telecom operator has been reported to lay off 54000 employees after the 2019 elections. India is still a developing country and employment must be made and treated as one of the more important agendas of the government instead of focussing on agendas like building a temple on a disputed piece of land.
Women make up for almost half of the population of India and in spite of that, the male to female ratio in terms of
employment and education has remained lower than other developing and developed nations of the world. The BJP government promised a safe, respectable and egalitarian environment for women in the country. The prime minister and many other members of the party have addressed to women as ‘mothers’, ‘deities’ and ‘sisters’ of the country.
However, despite its significant majority in parliament, the government did not move to pass the women’s reservation bill that would have reserved 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for female candidates. When it comes to the issue of safety of women, The Thomson Reuters Foundation perceived India as the world’s most dangerous place for women, citing retrograde cultural practices, sexual violence, and trafficking.
When it comes to crimes against women, almost all categories have seen an uptick in recent years, with thousands of cases of dowry harassment, assault, kidnapping, and rape registered in the last year alone. The average number of rapes per day in India is about 106. 4 out of every 10 victims of rape or sexual harassment is a minor. Evidently, the government has failed to fulfil its promises relating the issues of women safety and women empowerment.
“Education must create minds free from superstitions, hatred and violence and become an important vehicle to cement national unity, social cohesion and religious amity. Our endeavour should be to inculcate moral, ethical and humanistic values in the individuals and the society.” These words are from the BJP’s elections manifesto for the 2014 parliamentary election. The budget allocation for education completely punctures the tall claims and propaganda of the BJP. Its election manifesto had reiterated the long-standing demand for spending six per cent of the GDP on education.
The actual outcome, however, has been in a completely opposite direction. Public spending on education by central and state governments combined come to only 2.7 per cent of the GDP. Hindutva being the guiding light of the RSS’ approach to education, communalisation and saffronisation of education has been an integral part of the policies in the past five years. We are aware of efforts of the RSS family to rewrite the history and propagate pseudoscience using national platforms such as Indian History Congress and Indian Science Congress.
Education is one of the most important aspects of social development and any kind of adulterating of education indicates the dirty politics played by the ones in power in order to control the minds of the youth and the people of the state. This is done to keep the truth hidden from the people so that they remain ignorant about the things that affect them and so that they remain ignorant about the real history of the country and simply choose to believe whatever is provided to them by the biased media and government.
Apart from the crucial topics discussed above, the manifesto in 2014 talked about fulfilling certain ideological promises of the party and the RSS. The manifesto promised implementation of the Uniform Civil Code to protect “culture and heritage by drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with the modern times”. The bill hasn’t even been formed, let alone passed. It had talked about “exploring all possibilities within the framework of the constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya”. However, the matter remains under the purview of the Supreme Court and the temple still hasn’t been built.
No progress has been made on the modernisation of Madrasas as mentioned in the manifesto. Discussing ‘Greater attention to border areas’, the manifesto promised to ensure “return of Kashmiri Pandits to Jammu Kashmir, establishing good governance in Jammu and Kashmir while abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution”. But neither the Kashmiri Pandits have returned to the Valley nor Article 370 has been abrogated despite the BJP ruling the state for the first time in alliance with the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party. On the contrary militancy in Kashmir has increased and the situation has simply worsened.
It is now for the people of this country to decide if BJP has lived up to its promises and if its performance as the government has been up to the mark. The BJP “Sankalp Patra” for 2019 has again talked about certain, very crucial and sensitive issues. However, it has received a lot of backlash from the opposition who claim that the BJP has simply copied the promises from their manifestos and certain media agencies and opposition parties have also stated that the manifesto is the same old manifesto with same old, unkept promises from 2014. Let us now look at some of the “pledges” made by the party in its manifesto:
The party has promised to double the farmer’s income by 2022. However, in the course of the previous five years, the situation of the farmers has gone downhill. In certain areas of the country, farmers were made to sell onions for ₹1.04/kg. A farmer after receiving only ₹1064 after selling 750kg onions donated the money to the Prime Minister’s fund as a mark of protest out of frustration. The party has also promised to introduce a system for providing short term loans up to 1 lakh Rupees at 0% interest.
The problem with this promise is that most farmers who are probably the poorest of the poor people of the country do not have bank accounts and in order to open up a bank account they need a minimum amount of 10000 rupees always present in their account. The farmer suicide reached almost 12000 per year under the Modi Government. Judging by the performance of the government in the last 5 years, it is definitely difficult to be optimistic about the fulfilment of its promises regarding agricultural reforms and the betterment of the farmers.
The manifesto has promised digitization of education under “Operation Digital Board”. It has promised work towards the increase of the number of seats in premier management, engineering and law institutes. However, in its budget, the share of education has been the record lowest of only 3.3%. It has reduced the amount for funds for development of higher education and has publicly condemned the participation of youth in politics.
The 2019 manifesto has promised to increase the participation of women and reforms to increase the number of women in the workforce. It has promised to bring laws against the crimes committed against women too. They made similar promises in its 2014 election manifesto but the government has failed in the worst ways possible in the arena of women’s safety. Once again, it will prove to difficult for
the people to rely on the government for the betterment of women’s safety and women empowerment.
The Manifesto has promised 100% electrification of the village areas. However, this same promise was made by the party in its previous manifesto, and Amit Shah, the party president claimed that the promise had been fulfilled. The reality was again vastly different. There are still many villages and backward areas in the country where electricity still looks like an unrealistic dream for them. It has also promised to double the number of highways to be built and railway tracks to be constructed.
Moreover, it has promised to ensure housing for all by 2022 such that no one remains homeless and no one has to live in undesirable conditions. They have also promised the availability of clean drinking water and a regular tap water system for all by 2024. Currently, there are nearly 1.77 million homeless people residing in our country and more are living under difficult and uglier conditions. The party has promised to make efforts to clean Ganga by 2022 and has taken up the “National Mission for Clean Ganga”, but it rejected and ignored all previous efforts by activists and a recent report by The Wire revealed that 80% of the Clean Ganga fund has not been utilised yet. Thus, to sum up, they have promised that everyone in the country will have access to electricity, a roof over their heads and regular water condition by 2024.
The recent poll reports have revealed that the BJP will come to power, but not with the absolute majority like it did on its previous term. Thus, this time it will have relatively lesser power and more resistance from the opposition. One might ask why they did not do anything towards the fulfilment of these goals even though they had an absolute majority and when they had made similar promises in its previous election manifesto.
5 years under the Modi government has received mixed feedback. Regardless, there are still substantial questions regarding the potential of the promises made by them in the manifesto and its capability as the government. The recent poll reports indicate that the BJP is more likely to come to power once again than any other party or coalition. They also posit that the dynamics of the political background may change, with chances of the BJP not gaining an absolute majority and hence having to face more resistance from the opposition.
Keeping aside all these exit poll predictions, expert opinions on live debates in politically aligned national television channels being used as flag-bearers of the saffronisation propagandists – the final dictum shall be pronounced by the stakeholders of the nation, the voters. The figures speak for themselves and deep inside we know that Ambedkar was accurate when he said that “Indifferentism is the worst kind of disease that can affect the people”. We have paid a huge price for our indifference, for risking the multicultural ideals of India by handing over positions of power to the communal rioters of 2002, who unmistakably manifested themselves as ‘Gau-Rakshaks’ this time.
As a vigilant, educated citizen of the country with a sane mind, it is for you to decide whether you want to cast your vote in favour of the BJP despite their unfulfilled promises, despite their attempts to endanger the cornerstone of the largest democracy in the world and despite hurling incessant attacks on India’s pluralist and diverse society. Think and vote, for today, every vote matters. Let’s hope to live in 2019, and not in the Orwellian dystopia of ‘1984’.