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Inside story: BJP manifesto or Modi's to-do list?

india Updated: Apr 08, 2014 09:22 IST
Shekhar Iyer

Narendra Modi wanted a to-do list to carry into the Prime Minister’s Office in South Block if the BJP got the numbers to form a government at the Centre on May 16. What better way to do so than by redrafting the party’s election manifesto to read like one? That’s exactly what Modi told his party colleagues.

He reasoned that the people expected the government to work from day one as the response at all his rallies made clear. So, instead of the traditional document, he felt a manifesto that brimmed with “specifics and actionable items” would better convey the BJP’s “sincere intentions” to usher in change.

Read: BJP manifesto puts 'no first use' nuclear policy in doubt

Modi conveyed this to Murli Manohar Joshi, the head of the BJP manifesto committee. Joshi and his aides swung into action and re-worked what was earlier collated “painstakingly”.

A close aide of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate said that Joshi’s willingness to modify the initial draft along Modi’s suggestions contradicted media reports that differences between the two held up the manifesto’s release.

A BJP insider acknowledged that though the initial draft was “solid” in terms of outlining the BJP’s dream plan, it was “too heavy” to be read easily.

A stickler for detail, Joshi was keen that every aspect of governance was represented in “actionable” points. Party chief Rajnath Singh and senior leader Arun Jaitley agreed.

Read: Ram Temple in BJP manifesto, Congress complains to EC

The manifesto was therefore delayed due to the “keenness” of all concerned that its release conveyed a message of unity by getting all top bigwigs on the stage, said the Modi aide.

That task had Ramlal, BJP general secretary (organisation), on his toes. He had to coordinate with LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, as well as Modi, Rajnath and Joshi to get a date agreeable to all. Jaitley could not be present for the release as he had file his nomination papers in Amritsar, but a recorded message by him was played at the release function in New Delhi on Monday.

At the event, Joshi took the stage to outline the manifesto’s finer aspects. Advani and Swaraj, hitherto seen as cool to Modi, exuded confidence that the Gujarat CM would head the next government. Swaraj said the document was a source of hope for people at a time when nothing was “moving”. “We have presented a document to make this country move and then run in some time under Modi’s leadership,” she said.

Ediorial: BJP manifesto full of rhetoric minus steps to achieve objectives

Advani billed the manifesto as evidence of the “best preparation” by the BJP in the 16 polls he has participated in so far. During his speech, Modi promised not to “… do anything with ill intent… I will not do anything for myself.”

According to the manifesto, if voted to power, Modi and his team of ministers would have their priorities spread across five heads starting with an ‘Attend the Imminent’ section, which includes urgent and very important tasks.

Read: Manifesto watch: Cong, BJP, CPM and AAP stand on 10 key issues

Modi’s aides said the new government’s immediate “actionable” areas would be to tackle price rise, economic revival for creation of jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurship, curbing corruption, encouraging the bureaucracy to remove bottlenecks and usher in a chain of responsibility and accountability.

Once the government moves into “action mode”, other tasks listed as equally important would be taken up to ‘strengthen the framework’ for people’s participation, ‘reform the system’ for good governance, ‘widen the platform’ to help the poor and then move onto what Modi terms as a ‘leap forward’ to present a “government that cares” for social security and addresses youth issues.