‘Insignificant’ Congress’s influence on BJP and SP’s UP poll manifesto | Opinion

By | February 8, 2022

As if responding to the promises made by its political rivals, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made it a point to focus much attention in its manifesto to the larger well-being of farmers and women of Uttar Pradesh, where the first round of the seven-phased state Assembly election commences two days from now.

The manner in which Samajwadi Party (SP) seemed to follow suit within hours of BJP’s manifesto release reflected how it was out to display its upmanship over the ruling dispensation. However, it goes without saying that both were partly influenced by a politically insignificant Congress party’s manifesto that was released about a month ago by its leader Priyanka Gandhi.

The release of BJP’s manifesto “Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra” was made into a mega event with the party’s high profile campaigner and the country’s Home Minister Amit Shah air-dashing from New Delhi to preside over.

“Hum ghoshna-patra nahi, sankalp-patra jaari kar rahe hain”, was the emphasis of the chief minister who went all out to convey that he means business and that he does not believe in just making announcements and tall promises.

However, what remained amply visibly throughout the hour-long show, attended by all BJP bigwigs, was that the party had picked up most of its points from the carts of its rivals, including the Congress and SP.

The ruling party did try to show its generosity by offering two free gas cylinders on Holi and Diwali to beneficiaries of the Ujjwala scheme under which they received a free cylinder. With the government slashing the subsidy on cylinders from about Rs 300 to a paltry Rs 30 over the past five years, it has become extremely difficult for poor people to get a refill. Critics view that by excluding the festivals of other religious communities, the party has expressed its much-voiced preference for the Hindu majority community.

The same approach seemed to reflect in BJP’s announcement about 10-year imprisonment for those involved in ‘love-jihad’ which is the other name for ‘Hindu-Muslim’ marriages, allegedly carried out through deception or inducement. This announcement appears to have been done as a part of the party’s messaging to the majority community. Fact, however, remains that police investigation in most ‘love-jihad’ cases, registered during the Yogi Adityanath regime, had revealed how the charges were false and trumped-up. Most such alleged ‘love-jihad’ marriages turned out to have been solemnised with mutual consent and without any kind of inducement or deception.

Significantly, both BJP and SP manifestos devoted much focus towards farmers issues. While it became a natural compulsion for the BJP to do so as the ruling dispensation had consistently angered the farming community by trying to force new farm laws on them. Thanks to the onset of elections that Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to announce complete roll-back of those very laws. Since that too failed to assure the hurt farmers, some taller and louder promises were imminent.

No wonder, the BJP manifesto promises minimum support price on potato, tomato and onion, free electricity, irrigation facilities for farmers, and subsidy on tubewells and borewells. Fact remains that similar promise was made by the BJP in 2017, but electricity charges were not even reduced over the past five years. The talk on modernization of existing sugar mills or the promise of raising six mega food parks also seemed to be guided with the intent of appeasing farmers.

Perhaps in a counter to SP’s past ‘mahila vidya dhan’, under which the last Akhilesh Yadav government (2012-2017) allocated Rs 30,000 for each poor girl, the BJP has promised a grant of Rs 25,000 for a poor girl’s marriage. But what is significant in the BJP manifesto is the assurance to allocate Rs 5,000 crores for a corpus to form women self-help groups in the state. The promise for a scooty to all girls at the graduation level appears to a straight pick from Priyanka Gandhi’s manifesto.

While BJP assured a job or self-employment opportunity to at least one person in every household, Akhilesh Yadav has emphasized on regularization of contractual appointments and also promised filling of all vacancies in the government departments within a given time frame after formation of his government.

The biggest surprise was absence of Kashi or Mathura in the BJP manifesto. Even where Ayodhya is concerned, there is only mention building an international airport there.

On the health front, the BJP manifesto talks about setting up of at least one dialysis unit in each of the state’s 75 districts.

Both BJP and SP have promised free higher education to women. Likewise, both also talk about ensuring free ride to women in state public transport.

In an obvious sequel to the last Akhilesh government’s distribution of laptops and tablets, the BJP has now assured 2 crore smartphones and tablets.

Since the exercise of manifesto release has become more of a ritual, one really wonders how much would it really impact the minds of the voters. Specially when everyone knows that neither political parties nor their leaders believe in any kind of accountability towards their electors.

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