BJP offers cheap flour, 2-wheelers in city manifesto
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised bicycles and electric scooters to disadvantaged girls who stay in school and make it to college, wheat flour (instead of grain) at ~2 per kg to families from the economically weaker section (EWS), a new Yamuna riverfront, and insurance and health check-ups for cows, in its poll manifesto released on Friday.
The BJP also promised a comprehensive strategy to combat air, noise and water pollution in “mission mode”. From installing air purifies at traffic junctions to setting up charging stations for electric vehicles, the party listed measures which it said it will take to tackle air pollution, which has emerged as an annual health crisis in the winter months.
The Sankalp Patra (vision document) was silent on the subsidies in electricity and water bills currently given by the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is seeking to stay in power in the national capital.
Releasing the party’s manifesto for the February 8 Delhi elections, Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said that air and water pollution were two main concerns in the city.
The party’s 48-page vision document promised ~10,000 crore investment in infrastructure, 10,000 new buses, the creation of nine boards and commissions for the effective implementation of projects and welfare schemes for infrastructure development in unauthorised colonies and urbanised villages, and welfare schemes for traders and women.
It pledged insurance and regular health care for “milch cattle”, and a special marketing system for the sale of cow milk from indigenous breeds. It also talked about starting a water-taxi service between Delhi and Ghaziabad at affordable rates and a “talent hunt” programme to identify capable young people.
While the party did not promise any subsidy, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari said: “The ongoing schemes of the Delhi government will not be discontinued.” The AAP is giving up to 200 units of electricity and 20,000 litres of water free to every household.
To counter AAP’s free bus rides scheme for women, the BJP has promised to run “ladies special” buses. But the manifesto is silent on whether this service will be free or not.
AAP, for its part, called the BJP’s manifesto a “jumla patra” (joke document).
Chief minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal said the manifesto has made it clear that if the people of Delhi vote for the BJP then the ongoing free water, electricity and bus ride schemes will come to an end.
“The BJP manifesto proves that if you vote for them, your free water, free electricity and free bus rides will stop. Think before you vote,” Kejriwal tweeted.
The BJP, which has not been in power in the city-state in two decades, promised to set up a smart electricity grid to ensure better “reliability and quality of power supply”.
It also said it would make Delhi “tanker-free” and provide clean water through taps in every household by 2024.
In its 2013 manifesto, BJP promised to cut utility tariffs by 30% if it comes to power. In 2015, it promised reduction in rate of electricity and rationalisation of water tariff without specifying the percentage.
Though the AAP government is presenting the subsidies among its main achievements, Gadkari took a jibe at the Delhi government for these. “Freebies will not help carve Delhi’s future, concrete steps are needed,” the Union minister said.
Senior functionaries in the party said its leaders have differing views on the issue of subsidies.
They added that the party is of the view that financial assistance should be provided only to those who need it the most. This is for the first time that the BJP has promised that girls from EWS families will be given an electric scooters when they enrol in college and a bicycle if they are in Classes 9-12.
In recent months, water quality has become a flashpoint between the Delhi government and the Centre after a controversy over a quality test conducted by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his first campaign rally in December 2019 that supply of drinking water was the biggest problem in the city.
After announcing an ambitious plan to give ownership rights to residents of 1,731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi, the BJP manifesto has a similar plan for other areas, such as villages, resettlement colonies, katras in old Delhi, and others.
On the education sector, which the AAP is projecting as another of its government’s main achievements, the BJP hit out at the Delhi government for not doing enough, and said that it will construct 10 colleges and 200 new schools if voted to power.
The manifesto also said the BJP will implement three key schemes of the Centre — Ayushman Bharat (for health sector), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (for housing), and PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi (financial assistance to farmers).
The AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said the saffron party’s poll document has no effective vision for education, water, health, women’s safety and combating air pollution in Delhi.
“They say they will bring Ayushman Bharat scheme in Delhi. This is detrimental for the people of Delhi because those whose monthly income is ~10,000 or more will not benefit from this. In Delhi, the minimum wage itself is ~14,000, so this means that workers in Delhi won’t benefit from this scheme at all,” he said.
Addressing the concerns of the trading community, its core vote bank, the BJP has assured traders that it will take legal and administrative measures to stop sealing. It also promised to provide employment to 1 million youth in the next five years.
For its support base in rural Delhi, the party has promised measures to give them land ownership, board for infrastructure development in urbanised villages, and doing away with the sections in the Land Acquisition Act, among others.
The BJP has also committed to empowering trans people in its manifesto, saying it will formulate a policy for social and economic empowerment of transgender persons and create a forum for their active participation in governance.
Sanjay Kumar, director at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said: “People don’t vote on the basis of promises made in the manifesto of political parties… By not giving any subsidy, the BJP might be able to mobilise a slightly bigger section of the middle-class votes, which anyway is their support base. But they will not be able to make a dent in the AAP’s vote bank in slums and unauthorised colonies.”