Days ahead of the first phase of polling, the BJP on Monday released its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Titled ‘Sankalp Patra’, it was presented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP President Amit Shah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot were also present.
The manifesto promises to make India the third largest economy in the world and to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025.
Here are the highlights:
Reservation: The party has committed to 33% reservation for women in Parliament in state Assemblies through a Constitutional amendment. They have also promised 10% reservation in government jobs and higher education for economically weaker sections of society.
For women: Within the ambit of "women empowerment", the BJP has promised a focus on "women led development" by enabling higher numbers of women in the workforce. The party, if elected to power, promises to formulate a 'Women in Workforce' roadmap which it says will encourage industries and corporates to generate better employment opportunities for women. In a bid to further the same, the BJP says it will source 10% material for government procurement "from MSMEs having at least 50% women employees in their workforce."
The BJP is also promising to focus on making reproductive and menstrual health services easily available to women. The ongoing Suvidha scheme will be expanded to provide sanitary pads to all women and girls for Re 1, the party promised.
Childcare: BJP has promised to strengthen childcare services for parents in the unorganised sector. They’ve also proposed the extension of childcare facilities at workplaces to the unorganised sector by leveraging Anganwadis, civil society organisations and the private sector. Presently, any establishment with 50 or more employees is mandated to have a creche. With a view to encourage more women in the workforce, the BJP says it will increase childcare facilities threefold by 2022.
Uniform Civil Code: In its manifesto, the BJP has promised to attempt to draw up a Uniform Civil Code “drawing upon the best traditions and harmonizing them with the modern times”. The manifesto says that the BJP doesn’t believe India can have gender equality until a time that Uniform Civil Code is put in place. A long-standing matter of debate, it is based on Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Constitution, which states that the “State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.”
National Register of Citizens: The party has promised to expedite the completion of the controversial National Register of Citizens which contains the names of all Indian citizens in Assam. The exercise, the BJP says, was to identify illegal immigrants and take action. As per the manifesto, the BJP wants to implement this in a phased manner in other parts of the country as well.
Citizenship Amendment Bill: The BJP has committed to enacting the Citizenship Amendment Bill that would serve to protect persons of religious minority communities who are escaping persecution from neighbouring countries. The manifesto mentions Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs as the religions that will be given citizenship in India if escaping persecution.
Sabarimala: On the controversial Supreme Court decision on women’s entry to Sabarimala temple, the manifesto has said “the subject of faith, tradition and worship rituals related to Sabarimala are presented in a comprehensive manner before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. We will endeavour to secure constitutional protection on issues related to faith and belief.”
Defence: Focussing on defence, the BJP has promised to speed up the purchases of outstanding defence-related equipment and weapons, focus on ‘Make in India in Defence’ in order to be self-reliant, leverage untapped employment-generation potential of sectors such as defence, and aims to build six integrated check-posts to facilitate easier trade and travel from the neighbouring countries and aim to conduct all movement through these check-posts with Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.
Startups: A new scheme to provide collateral-free credit up to Rs 50 lakh for entrepreneurs. This includes a guaranteed 50% of the loan amount for women and 25% of the loan amount for men.
Farmers: For farmers, the BJP manifesto promises to double farm income, which it promised during its present tenure as well. It acknowledges this, and says it will be done by 2022. It launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana to provide financial assistance to farmers who own up to two hectares of land, a pension scheme for small and marginal farmers, short-term new agriculture loans up to Rs 1 lakh at no interest for 1-5 years on the condition of prompt repayment of the principal amount, and voluntary enrolment in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana for risk mitigation and insurance cover.
Jammu and Kashmir: In its manifesto, the party has reiterated its promise on the abrogation of Article 370, which would provide an autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. The manifesto also mentions the party’s commitment to annul Article 35A “as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir.” The BJP has also pormised to ensure the "safe return of Kashmiri Pandits" and have committed to providing financial assistance to enable the "resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Chhamb."
Environment: The National Clean Air Plan will be converted into a “mission” and the party promises to focus on the 102 most polluted cities in India. The manifesto says that the level of pollution in each of these cities will be reduced by at least 35% in the next five years.
Transportation: Fifty cities will be covered with a “strong” metro system in the next five years. The party will also launch a National Urban Mobility Mission to provide technology-based mobility solutions for cities to increase the use of public transport, as well as making cities more walkable and cycle friendly.
Simultaneous Elections: In an effort to improve the efficiency of government resources and bring down expenditure, the party has said it will move towards simultaneous elections for Parliament, state Assemblies and local bodies. A common voter list for all elections will also be established.
In addition to this, the manifesto also promises to lower the tax rate to “reward” honest taxpayers, revise tax slabs and provide incentives, increase access to education, improve urban infrastructure etc.