Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi takes election manifestos quite seriously, and even has his own style of preparing it.
However, with the Congress already making nearly 10 big promises in the run-up to the December polls, the battle of political wits hinges on their credibility, and which ones would actually click. The Congress tried to get a headstart by promising populist schemes – including a slash in value-added tax on petroleum products, affordable houses for women in urban areas, free plots to the rural poor, and one lakh government jobs.
However, an unfazed Modi stuck to what he had planned earlier this year. According to BJP sources, his teams had fanned out across “difficult” regions in Gujarat to get feedback on development bottlenecks as well as specific issues that agitate them.
Modi had sought details of local issues and assigned party members with the task of finding solutions. Armed with these details, BJP managers summoned local residents to Gandhinagar, where solutions were discussed.
Inferences made from their responses were then incorporated in the BJP manifesto, said a party strategist. Modi's objective is to make the manifesto appear like a “participatory exercise” so “people feel they had a say in the manifesto when they see their demands mentioned”, she added.Another aide said Modi was focussing on "infrastructure and delivery systems expected of a developed state". It will also look at promises made in the last 10 years, and what has been achieved.
Experts on agriculture, social sector, industry and education have been reeled in to help prepare the manifesto. Also lending a hand are younger people, mostly qualified professionals, who are bitten by “Modi’s bug to do something for Gujarat”.
BJP poll managers, however, admit that incorporating more than 1,000 suggestions — being overseen by trusted minister of state for finance and industry Saurabh Patel — is going to be a challenge.
Critics may disagree, but Modi’s brief to the manifesto writers leaves no space — to come out by mid-November — for “falsehood, gimmicks of untruth, and false propaganda”. According to him, while Congress has to “live on media statements, BJP stands on people’s trust”.