With Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that “nationalism is our inspiration”, the BJP on Monday promised to remove Article 35A, a decades-old order that grants special rights to the people of J&K, oust illegal immigrants by implementing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in a phased manner in the country, and turn into law the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Releasing its Sankalp Patra, which Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said had not been “prepared with the tukde tukde mindset” or the “Ivy League mindset” but with a “strong nationalist vision… rooted in Indian reality”, the BJP did not shed its core issues of the Ram temple construction, Uniform Civil Code and endeavours to secure “Constitutional protection on issues related to faith and belief” (the issue of allowing women of all age to enter the Sabarimala temple).
While it resisted announcement of populist measures, the manifesto did detail steps to reduce agrarian distress by promising interest-free loan up to Rs 1 lakh and pension for small and marginal farmers above the age of 60 years, Rs 6,000 as annual income support, and\social security measures like pucca houses for all by 2022 and pension for small shopkeepers.
Prime Minister Modi, the only leader who figured on the cover of the 45-page document titled Sankalpit Bharat, Sashakt Bharat, released the Sankalp Patra at a function which was attended by party chief Amit Shah and senior ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj among others. For the first time, LK Advani and MM Joshi, two of the founding leaders of the BJP, were missing from the dais.
Modi underlined: “Nationalism is our inspiration. Antyodaya (welfare of the last man) is our vision and good governance is our mantra.” With the BJP consistently advocating for the scrapping of Article 35A, which prevents outsiders from purchasing property in Jammu and Kashmir, the manifesto said: “We are committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir. We believe that Article 35 A is an obstacle in the development of the state.”
The document begins with a section on ‘Nation First’ highlighting the “decisive leadership” of Modi that “fundamentally altered the national security paradigm of India in the last five years”. It listed zero tolerance to terrorism, strengthening of armed forces, self-reliance in defence sector, welfare of soldiers, combating infiltration, reinforcing border security and welfare of the soldiers.
In the wake of the Balakot air strike post the Pulwama terror attack, the party has been projecting itself as the one capable of taking strong measures against the enemy. Under the sub-title Çombating Infiltration, the party promised it would complete the process of NRC in the areas where illegal migration has affected the people’s livelihood and employment. “In future we will implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country.” While reiterating his government’s commitment on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Rajnath Singh assured that it would ensure that the linguistic identity of every state would be protected.
While Rajnath Singh, chairman of the manifesto committee, listed 75 milestones that India has to achieve by 2022 when the country celebrates its 75th anniversary of Independence, Modi said 2019-24 would be a time to “lay foundation” 2047, the 100th year of Independence. Addressing the gathering, Shah reiterated that the BJP government in the last five years fulfilled the promises of providing a transparent, strong and decisive government to the country. “Our ‘Sankalp Patra’ promises to fulfil all expectations of the people,” he said, adding that Modi dared to carry out surgical strikes and air strikes on the foundation of terror. With its strikes on terror, the Modi-led government, Shah said, sent out a strong message that India cannot be taken lightly.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who highlighted the Modi government’s achievements in diplomacy, said: “It is not just announcements that the document has made, but pledges that the party has made to itself to deliver to the people.”