The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its much delayed manifesto on Monday (April 7), coinciding with the first day of polling. The manifesto, which is said to embody prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi's vision, focuses largely on removing bottlenecks, and red tape so as to make implementation easier for businesses.
The manifesto sees information technology playing a key role in achieving this. It promises high-speed internet highways across the country, linking most villages to the internet, reforming the rail network, focusing in a big way on manufacturing, and assuring power supply. The poll document also commits the party to reforming the procedures for businesses.
A phalanx of leaders including patriarch LK Advani, party's prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi, party chief Rajnath Singh, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and party's manifesto committee chief Murli Manohar Joshi, were present on the occasion of the release.
Party leaders told BT, that most projects which fail do so due to the absence of proper monitoring. "Now, we have information technology, many things can be done with ease," one leader said.
The leaders pointed to the manifesto's proposal to set up a regulator National Land Use Authority. This regulator will ascertain the urgency of the land acquisition. This was a contentious issue during both tenures of the UPA government. Another major reform the party is proposing is that of cutting red tape by simplifying processes. "Today, it takes at least two-three years to start a business, after taking requisite permissions and clearances," said Joshi.
"We do not want India to remain a market for the global industry. Our vision is to make the country a manufacturing hub. For this, you require implementation of projects to be swift and cost effective."
The party in its poll document promised to bring in a single-window clearance system both at central and the state level on the hub-and-spoke model. Interestingly, the party is also committing itself to labour reforms, along with commitment to invest more in infrastructure. Modi government's model of labour reforms in Gujarat remains a contentious issue -after it simplified retrenchment and lock out procedures.
The party also promised agricultural reforms, more on the supply side. The rail corridors on the basis of agricultural produce's movement, national agriculture market, trains taking care of special needs of transporting agricultural produces - like light trains for transporting salt - linking UPA's flagship scheme MNREGA with agriculture to get access to the latest technology and seeds.
The manifesto also talked about the vision Modi has shared over the last few years, on the centre-state relationship. Many see this as a political masterstroke in gaining more support from regional parties, but if implemented, this can ease several glitches in implementation of several projects. The party is committing itself to creating 'regional councils of states' - primarily to reduce inter-state disputes.
"We are planning to develop a team india - which will not be limited to a PM-led team, but the state chief ministers would also be equally part of this," says Joshi. This can unlock several projects, especially related to mining of natural resources. But in a time when most of the chief ministers might not want to see eye to eye with Modi, it has to be seen how the government under him would implement it.
What the manifesto is silent on:
a. Direct Taxes Code. It is also non-committal on GST
b. There is no mention on retrospective amendments in taxation
c. Although party is opposing FDI in retail, the manifesto does not make it clear whether it will repeal the UPA government's clearance given already
d. Manifesto says it is okay with FDI in every other sector except retail. But there is no specific reference to FDI in real estate, increasing the current limits in banks, media, insurance and most contentious, pension funds
e. Ensuring 24X7 electricity finds no mention in the manifesto
f. No clear view on labour reforms
g. The document commits review of the nuclear policy, but does this mean they will also get into the Nuclear Liability Bill and Treaty with the US?
Read between the lines:
1. The party is planning to revive controversial acts like POTA - as an anti terrorist law
2. The party is also committing to review the national investigation agency