A Tale of Two Election Manifestos – BJP vs Congress


The elections are here. So are the election manifestos offering promises and dreams without looking back at what was promised and what was delivered since the previous election. Political parties, over the years have made this a routine that has to be gone through before each election. No one asks why they do this and none bother to look at the election promises once the elected officials are in power.

Therefore, we must look at the track record of the political parties in implementing what they promise in their manifesto as well as the credibility of the leader of the party issuing the manifesto before deciding on which manifesto suits our liking.

Let us examine the key issues facing our nation and how the BJP and the Congress plan to address these. We need to cut out all the rhetoric and weigh each point with a lens of fiscal prudence.

  • Jobs: With over 28 million people being added to our population each year, there is no denying the fact that the Government in power has to create jobs. But do these have to be only in Government jobs? Or does the Government have to provide an ecosystem that is conducive to creating jobs through entrepreneurship? The Congress is promising more Government jobs and the BJP is offering more entrepreneurial opportunities. Government jobs will always be finite if we want an effective bureaucracy.
  • Health: The health needs of our growing population needs no argument. The fact that our health systems are appalling is a fact no one can deny or challenge. What is worth examining is what the BJP has done through its Ayushman Bharat scheme which has provided medical insurance cover for almost 40% of our country. The Congress manifesto talks of a Right to Healthcare Act, but it is worth thinking about what has already been implemented versus what has been promised.
  • Education: The Congress manifesto promises to reserve 6% of the annual budget for education while the BJP manifesto talks about increasing educational institutions. What is important to note is that the BJP wants to develop our educational institutions to attain international eminence, once again focusing on the demographic dividend of India.
  • Farmers: Since independence, the plight of the farmers has been discussed with very little being done for them. It is important to understand that no farmer wants a dole to get a free meal. He wants to work hard and to earn a livelihood from his land. The Congress, its normal style promises more handouts while the BJP talks about doubling farm incomes by 2024 and providing more water for cultivation. In addition, the BJP has already implemented neem coated fertilizer and the increased MSP scheme.
  • Security: The matter of national security needs no explanation or discussion. Clearly, every Indian (barring maybe a few exceptions) wants security for himself and his family. This includes security of our borders, security of our homes and our personal security. The Congress wants to dilute the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) without solving the problem of terrorism. The BJP clearly has a diametrically opposite view and we have seen which leader has taken what action over the years. The BJP has emphasised its zero tolerance against terrorism. Can we afford to simply “strongly condemn” terrorism as we have always done after being hit or should we hit back hard to create deterrence?
  • Financial Prudence: The Congress manifesto is clearly salivating at the prospects of being given a strong economy where inflation is under control, current account deficit is at its lowest and the GDP has consistently shown strong growth. They see an excellent opportunity to raid the treasury with their populist schemes like NYAY. The BJP, on the other hand has always demonstrated fiscal prudence and not hesitated to take tough decisions when faced with challenges that can impact the long-term fiscal policies for our country.
  • Uniform Civil Code: There is probably no country in the world that has a multiplicity of laws applicable for its citizens on the basis of their religion. The laws must be the same for all citizens. Because of our evolution post-independence, it has suited successive Governments to keep deferring the tough decision of a Uniform Civil Code. This has resulted in lots of challenges between the religious groups. It is time for a healthy debate to start the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code and the BJP has addressed this issue while the Congress is, understandably, silent.
  • Infrastructure: Post independence, we have been promised good infrastructure by successive Governments. The definition of “good” has never been clarified. Are the pot-holed roads considered good or acceptable? Are the brown outs and load shedding considered acceptable? Today’s young Indians take good roads, 100% power and broadband connectivity for granted. The BJP manifesto talks about significant investment in infrastructure and housing for all by 2022.

The manifestos of a few regional parties like the RJD that promises reservation of jobs in private sector and the judiciary does not need any discussion. There will be many more ridiculous promises that will be made by other regional parties. These are stillborn promises that everyone knows will never be implemented.

As the population of developed world shrinks, more and more Indians will find opportunity to migrate to these developed nations. Do we need a leader who makes India stand tall and ensure that our passport becomes more powerful OR do we need a group of leaders who are inward looking and will ensure that the world does not welcome future generation of Indians?

The BJP manifesto talks about making India the third largest economy in the world and a developed nation. The Congress would prefer to keep our country in poverty and illiteracy since this is how they have managed to keep winning elections. But India has changed, and the young Indians know what they want.

The million-dollar question remains. Does an election manifesto mean anything to the voter or is it more an exercise to massage the egos of various political leaders? Do we want a manifesto that, if implemented will raid the nation’s treasury to meet short-term personal goals of a few politicians?

We need to assess the performance of our local politicians and our political leaders on an ongoing basis rather than wait for the “festival of democracy” every 5 years. This is an assessment that must be done of the party in power and the party in opposition. A leader does not need to be in Government to fulfil his promises.

As responsible voters, it is important to accept that a Government needs at least 2 terms to implement what it has started. If at the end of 10 years the promises have not been kept, the voter has every right to make a change. The UPA was given 10 years. The NDA deserves the same.

In conclusion, as the old saying goes, give a man a fish and he will eat for the day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat all his life (with apologies to all the vegetarians). We can see which manifesto is offering us fish to eat and which manifesto is promising to teach us how to fish!

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