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Tracing Lord Ram’s steps & wheels for girls – comparing BJP & Congress manifestos in MP

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The BJP has released a double manifesto for the MP polls, with one dedicated solely to women. The Congress, meanwhile, has played the soft Hindutva card.

Bhopal: The elections in Madhya Pradesh could spring many surprises, if the manifestos of the key players, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, are anything to go by.

As it released its manifesto for Madhya Pradesh Saturday, the BJP steered clear of any overt religion-inspired promises which otherwise define its brand of politics. They did, however, find their way into the Congress manifesto.

Madhya Pradesh has been ruled by the BJP for 15 years now, with Shivraj Singh Chouhan serving as chief minister for 12. It goes to the polls 28 November.

In the BJP’s scheme of things, the manifesto has become increasingly redundant and more perfunctory. In a telling instance of this, in Gujarat, the party released it just a day before first phase of polling. But for the first time, the BJP has launched a ‘double manifesto’, with one solely focussed on women, a fact considered crucial in a state where crime against women is said to be rampant.

While the general manifesto is called the ‘Drishti Patra (vision document)’, the other is called the ‘Naari Shakti Sankalpa Patra (women empowerment document)’. Released by union finance minister Arun Jaitley and Chouhan, the manifestos left many wondering if the Congress and BJP had decided to swap political places in an election where both are willing to go all out to rule the hustings.

However, a careful analysis of the manifestos of the BJP and Congress across categories shows precisely why, while uncharacteristic, the promises are part of a well-crafted strategy.


Also read: Madhya Pradesh Congress proposes to do away with UPA’s no-detention policy


Religion

Lord Ram is a name the BJP uses extensively in poll campaigns, but the Congress has also decided to take a leaf out of the BJP’s book, promising the launch of a ‘Ram Van Gaman Path’ tour to retrace Ram’s steps through his stay in MP during his 14-year exile.

It has also said it will set up a new ‘religion and spiritual department’ in the government, which many consider an answer to the cow ministry Chouhan announced earlier this year.

Additionally, the Congress manifesto has also called for a rethink on the anti-conversion law, often termed draconian by critics and allegedly misused, and said that innocent people should be protected against violence by those opposed to the practice.

The BJP manifesto, meanwhile, doesn’t go all out on issues of religion. It subtly mentions the creation of a Religious Places Management Authority to oversee temples-related problems.

Both parties, however, seem to be working to a plan. The Congress has increasingly tried to flirt with soft Hindutva, with party president Rahul Gandhi’s much-publicised temple visits ahead of elections, his Kailash Mansarovar yatra, the flaunting of his Shiv bhakti (devotion) and of course, the controversial description of Gandhi being a ‘janeudhari’ (sacred-thread wearing) Brahmin.

The emphasis on religion in the manifesto, therefore, follows this approach, with the Congress evidently realising the need to counter the BJP not just on issues of development, governance and political alliances, but also on the question of Hindutva. Greatly concerned about being tagged as a party that believes in ‘minority appeasement’ — a weapon used effectively against it by the BJP — the Congress is going all out to prove its ‘Hindu’ credentials.

For the BJP, meanwhile, the idea is to fight this election overtly on the issue of vikas (development) while ensuring undertones of its trademark Hindutva, majoritarian pitch.

The BJP has its widespread cadre network and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh working on the ground, spreading the Hindutva message on an everyday basis. The party is aware it does not need a manifesto to assert its position, especially at a time when there is enough noise being made about the Ram temple in Ayodhya by its leaders across the spectrum.

The Congress’ organisation on the ground is not as pervasive. Moreover, it usually focusses on talking about lack of vikas and isn’t used to being overtly religious in its election outreach. The BJP also knows it is clearly identified as a Hindu party, and believes this is not an area where the Congress can quite dislodge it.

Welfare

The BJP manifesto promises a free scooty to every girl student who scores more than 75 per cent in the Class XII boards, with the party also proposing that the government will bear the registration cost.

Also, school and college-going girls in rural areas are being promised free and safe conveyance facilities, martial arts training, as well as sanitary napkin vending machines.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chouhan have built their politics, among many other factors, on their appeal to women voters. The PM’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ movement is part of this very blueprint, and the manifesto’s focus on women is no different.

The Congress, meanwhile, has also realised the importance of this electorate and has promised a grant of Rs 50,000 to girls for marriage. It has also vowed to increase the social security pension for the elderly from Rs 300 per month to Rs 1,000.

Jobs, industry, infrastructure

The BJP has promised to create 10 lakh jobs each year for the youth and ensure smooth working conditions for young entrepreneurs to launch their own startups. The manifesto also announces the creation of a ‘GST Mitra Yojna’ to help ease any problems being faced by people in filing taxes under the tax reform.

Other promises included the construction of a global skill park in Bhopal, and a budget of Rs 2 lakh crore to improve infrastructure in the cities. The incumbent government has also promised to increase electricity capacity to 14,000 MW.

The Congress’ promises are of a more general nature, saying just that it will encourage industry to create jobs. Further, it has promised to give a salary grant of Rs 10,000 per job to industries providing employment to the youth in the state.

This is a tricky subject for the BJP, given the lack of job creation is a criticism hurled at both the Modi government at the Centre and Chouhan’s government in the state. Battling 15 years of anti-incumbency, the BJP has evidently tried to pander to the youth — the voter whose only recollection of the state’s government is perhaps the current regime — by playing to their aspirational demands and promising a better future.

To appease the youth, the Congress has gone one step further and promised the creation of a Yuva Aayog (Commission for the Youth) to focus on young men and women.


Also read: Why Modi is holding fewer rallies in MP and Chhattisgarh this time than in 2013 assembly polls


Agriculture

Agriculture and farmers are arguably the primary plank for this election, with widespread farmer distress having defined the state’s socio-political landscape in recent times. The farmer agitation in Mandsaur last year – which took a violent turn — has greatly harmed the BJP government not just in the state, but across other regions as well.

In its manifesto, the BJP has promised to increase the irrigation area and ensure farmers get a fair price even when market prices are not favourable. Chouhan’s Bhavantar yojana turned out be a damp squib and the party is desperately trying to regain a semblance of appeal among the farmers.

The Congress — once a master of the politics of welfare and sops — has promised a waiver for loans of up to Rs 2 lakh to ease farmer distress. Trying to cash in on the anti-BJP sentiment among farmers, Rahul Gandhi has assured farmers that the loan waiver will kick in within 10 days of the party’s win.

Vyapam

The state professional examination and recruitment board, known by its Hindi abbreviation Vyapam, has courted much controversy over irregular appointments and admissions.

The Congress has said in its manifesto that, if voted to office, it will scrap Vyapam and refund the fees aspirants were charged.

The BJP, meanwhile, has not touched upon the issue.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Congress manifesto- freebies subsidies reservation loan waivers
    BJP manifesto- freebies subsidies reservation loan waivers.

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