Speaking politics through manifesto – Hindustan Times

Speaking politics through manifesto - Hindustan Times

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s manifesto (sankalp patra) for the 2024 general elections reveals a party confident of another term in office and confident that it only needs to promise continuity of its policies to win over voters. On this count, it is more like the last Union budget, where the Centre refused to offer pre-poll sops but stuck to fiscal prudence and policy continuity. A decade in office and the hegemonic position it now enjoys in politics seem to have influenced the BJP to see itself as a party of government and craft a language that suits its new profile in the manifesto. The manifesto is also offered as the guarantee of Narendra Modi — Modi ki guarantee — where the leader is privileged over the party: It reflects unparalleled trust in the leader to deliver electoral goods.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi releases the BJP election manifesto in New Delhi on Sunday. (ANI Photo)

Each of Modi’s guarantees is linked to the grand idea of Viksit Bharat (developed India) that the Prime Minister champions in his campaigns. Welfare, employment, education, culture, tourism, national pride, defence and India’s global image have been tied together to envisage a governance model that promises to transform India into a developed economy and a global power by 2047. Even contentious topics such as the Uniform Civil Code, Citizenship Amendment Act, One Nation, One Election, and Common Electoral Roll have been presented as central to the governance promise — not as ideological choices. On politically sensitive topics such as minimum support price in agriculture, the manifesto steers clear of any promise that may entail major fiscal allocations and has refused to promise legal guarantees. In this sense, the manifesto is rooted in a political economy in which the State is only a facilitator, an entity that will build infrastructure, promote private enterprise, and nurture a culture of entrepreneurship to address the crisis in employment rather than spend to provide jobs. There is, of course, the odd “guarantee” that is in perfect sync with the BJP’s commitment to cultural nationalism but could also be interpreted as an outreach to sections so far indifferent to the party — for instance, the promise to build Thiruvalluvar Culture Centres which is an attempt to reach out to Tamilians.

In an election short on emotional pitch, the BJP’s focus on governance is an interesting gambit. The Opposition has a counter-narrative on Modi’s record in office around inflation, and unemployment, of course. In this battle of narratives, manifestos play a crucial role, but elections, of course, are won with hard-nosed politics — smart tactics, organisational muscle, managerial skills, leadership and hunger for office. And there, if 2014 and 2019 are any indication, the BJP does way better.

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