The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday released its manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on the first day of polling saying "this is a new beginning for our country".
Read: BJP manifesto promises bullet trains, 100 new cities
BJP's PM nominee Narendra Modi poses alongisde BJP president Rajnath Singh, LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, and Murli Manohar Joshi as they hold up the party manifesto upon its release in New Delhi. (AFP photo)
The document, released by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi among others at the party headquarters in new Delhi, also pledged to provide good governance and inclusive development.
The Election Commission has blocked the release of the BJP's manifesto in Assam and Tripura as the first phase of polling is underway in these two northeastern states.
Senior leaders LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, party president Rajnath Singh and others were present during the release of the document.
In its 52-page election manifesto, the saffron party raised the main slogans of "Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat" (One India, best India) and "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas".
Read: More jobs, tax reforms - BJP’s economic vision
Senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who headed the BJP manifesto committee, told reporters that the focus is on five Ts in the party's manifesto - talent, tourism, trade, tradition and technology.
"Our country has moved backwards in the last 10 years. The BJP manifesto focuses on things that will help the country bounce back," Joshi said.
The release of the manifesto which came on the opening day of the nine-phased Lok Sabha elections drawing criticism from rivals.
Read: BJP plans to steer economy out of rut, but shuts door on FDI in multi-brand retail
There was speculation that Modi had reservations over the document drafted by Joshi and that the pet themes of Sangh parivar may not figure in it in view of Modi's stress on development in the current campaign.
Read: I will not do anything with bad intent, says Modi
Contentious issues like construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir and enactment of Uniform Civil Code have been included in the BJP's election manifesto.
"BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya," the manifesto, delayed by a fortnight, said.
Asked about the reported differences within the party over inclusion of the Ram Temple issue, Joshi said "whatever is there is there in the manifesto. If you want to write something on the basis of your own perceptions, you are free to do".
Asked if the party was trying to confuse voters by including Ram Temple and whether this could be called raking up Hindutva, Joshi said, "this has nothing to do with Hindutva or athva (otherwise). This is only a promise of development programme."
He said Hindutva has never been an election issue and added the manifesto was based on issues of development and governance.
"We have put it in the section on "Cultural Heritage". What is culturally important for us we have said," Joshi said referring to the promise on Ram Temple.
He added the issue had been included in the previous election manifesto too and the party's stand remained unchanged.
On Uniform Civil Code, the manifesto said Article 44 of the Constitution lists Uniform Civil Code (UCC) as one of the directive principles of the state policy.
"BJP believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time India adopts a UCC which protects the rights of all women and the BJP reiterates its stand to draft a UCC drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with modern times," said the document.
Dealing with Article 370 in the chapter on Jammu and Kashmir, the manifesto said "the BJP reiterates its stand on the constitution provision and will discuss this with all stakeholders and remains committed to the abrogation of this article."
Return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood will figure high on the BJP's agenda, it said.
In the "Cultural Heritage" section, the manifesto says that Ram Setu is part of India's cultural heritage and also of strategic importance due to its vast thorium deposits. These facts will be taken into consideration while taking any decision on Sethusamudram channel project.
Terming the period of UPA I and II as "the decade of decay", the manifesto said India had a "free fall" on all fronts, including governance, economy, diplomacy, foreign policy, border safety, etc.
Read: BJP manifesto promises specific reforms for the economy
At the same time, corruption, scams and crime against women have been reached "unacceptable" level. There has been a gross misuse of government and institutions. There has also been erosion of authority of the office of prime minister.
"The government dithered by each passing day casting gloom and doom on the country that was once under the NDA regime called the emerging superpower. Critical and urgent challenges facing the nation have been left unaddressed.
"Beyond impacting the immediate short term, this is corroding the long term potential of the nation. People feel frustrated and have lost hope in the system. Things must change and they must change now. BJP will take immediate and decisive action to address these issues on a priority basis," it said.
Under the chapter "Reform the System", the BJP manifesto promised good governance, which will be transparent, effective, involving and encouraging and include reforms of administration, judiciary, police and election.
Corruption, the manifesto, said is a manifestation of poor governance.
"Moreover, it reflects the bad intentions of those sitting in power. All pervasive corruption under the Congress-led UPA has become a national crisis.
"We will establish a system which will eliminate the scope of corruption through public awareness, technology enabled e-governance, system based policy-driven governance, rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime and simplification of the process and procedures at all levels," the manifesto said.
Referring to the black money issue, the BJP document said its government will initiate process of tracking down and bringing back the black money stashed in foreign banks and offshore accounts.
"We will set up a task force for this purpose and to recommend amendments to existing laws or enact new laws. The process of bringing back blackmoney to India will be put in motion on priority. We will also proactively engage with foreign governments to facilitate information sharing on blackmoney."
Giving high priority to revival of growth and job creation, the party promised to contain inflation, pursue tax reforms and promote foreign investments but said barring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, the party was not opposed to the FDI as it will create employment.
"We have chalked out a plan to improve the economic situation in the country in the manifesto. As far as infrastructure is concerned, improving manufacturing is important and it needs to be export oriented," said Joshi.
"We need to create India as a brand because if India innovates, India leads," Joshi said.
"The sooner we do it the better it would be to generate more jobs," he added.
The manifesto accused the Congress-led UPA government of unleashing "tax terrorism and uncertainty" and engendering 10 years of jobless growth.
It promised to set up a price stabilisation fund to check inflation, ensure fiscal discipline and pursue banking sector reforms to deal with the problem of rising bad loans.
"The country has been dragged through 10 years of jobless growth by the Congress-led UPA Government. Under the broader economic revival, BJP will accord high priority to job creation and opportunities for entrepreneurship," it said while unveiling the road map for the future.
With regard to the agriculture sector, the manifesto promises to create a single 'National Agriculture Market' and increase public investment in the farm sector.
Referring to taxation, it said, "the UPA government has unleashed 'Tax terrorism' and 'uncertainty', which not only creates anxiety amongst the business class and negatively impacts the investment climate, but also dents the image of the country."
Read: BJP manifesto has no space for farmers, labourers: Akhilesh
Promising tax reforms, BJP said its tax policy roadmap include focus on a non-adversarial and conducive tax environment, overhaul of the dispute resolution mechanisms, bringing on board all state governments in adopting GST (Goods and Services Tax) and provision for tax incentives to promote investment.
Dealing with "Decision and Policy Paralysis", the manifesto said the country has suffered a decade of maladministration and scams in addition to decision and policy paralysis, thus bringing growth and development to a grinding halt leading to a governance deficit.
"This situation will be changed and the engine of government will be ignited again with strong will power and commitment to public interest. We will also encourage the bureaucracy to take right decisions and contribute their might in building a modern India," it said.
The BJP said the biggest challenge that India faced today was to restore the credibility of and trust in the Union government.
"In recent years, the Union government has lost every semblance of credibility. Its intentions, integrity and initiatives are all questionable. The Congress party has not only lowered the dignity of the government but also the dignity of India.
"The BJP will work for restoring the trust and credibility of the government. We will also ensure that the chain of responsibility and accountability is built in the system," it said.
On price rise, the manifesto said the runaway food inflation has crippled household budgets and contributed to overall inflationary trend.
"However, the Congress-led UPA government has remained insensitive and indifferent to the plight of the people tying itself into knots with short term misdirected steps," it said.
On employment, the BJP accused the UPA government of "dragging" the country through 10 years of jobless growth.
The party promised to accord high priority to job creation and opportunities for entrepreneurship.
BJP will strategically develop high-impact domains like labour-intensive manufacturing and tourism. It will also strengthen the traditional employment basis of agriculture and allied industries and retail through modernisation as well as stronger credit and market linkages.
Propounding a "Team India" concept, the BJP said the genuine grievances of every state will be addressed in a comprehensive manner and it will place Centre-State relations on an even keel through the process of consultation.
"Team India will not be limited to the Prime Minister-led Team sitting in Delhi but will also include chief ministers and other functionaries as equal partners," it said.
The party pledged to ensure fiscal autonomy of states while urging financial discipline. It will create regional councils of states with common problems and concerns with a view to seeking solutions that are applicable across a group of states.
It promised to encourage cooperation among states on security-related issues, inter-state disputes and removing inter-regional economic disparities and promoting tourism.
"The moribund forums like National Development Council and Inter-State Council will be revived and made into active bodies," the manifesto said and promised to involve state governments in the promotion of foreign trade and commerce.
In the field of foreign policy, the BJP promised to pursue friendly relations with neighbours but said "where required we will not hesitate from taking strong stand and steps".
India's nuclear doctrine will be studied in detail and will be revised and updated to make it relevant to challenges of current times, Joshi said.
Joshi said BJP in its manifesto promises a uniform civil code for gender equality in the country.
The BJP, in its manifesto, also assured effective implementation of UPA's pet projects - food security scheme and right to education.
Regarding the northeast, the party has promised "there will be special emphasis on massive infrastructure development, especially along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim".
The party poll document said it will take urgent steps for the safety of the migrant workers and communities from the northeast and other states.
It will also help states mobilise resources through investments in industry, agriculture and infrastructure," the manifesto said.
It also promised a national health insurance mission for accessible, affordable and effective health care for all in its poll document.
The BJP in its poll document promised house for all in the country.
"We will roll out a massive low cost housing programme to ensure that by the time the nation completes 75 years of its Independence, every family will have a pucca house of its own."
The party pledged to launch a national campaign for saving the girl child and educating her called "Beti Bachao - Beti Padhao".
It also said that if elected, a BJP government will create an acid attack victims welfare fund to take care of the medical costs related to treatment and cosmetic reconstructive surgeries of such victims.
The Congress later on Monday lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against the BJP claiming that reference to Ayodhya in its manifesto was violation of the model code as it amounted to seeking votes on religious lines.
Congress treasurer Motilal Vohra also said that declaration of manifesto on April 7, the polling day in Assam and Tripura was in violation of the provisions of the Representation of the People's Act and the commission's instructions.
The Congress has sought action against the party for the alleged violation of the model code and the law.
(With PTI inputs)