BJP promises a stricter law against ‘love jihad’ in Uttarakhand manifesto
Polling for the 70-member Uttarakhand legislative assembly will be held on February 14 and the votes will be counted on March 10
Days ahead of the Uttarakhand assembly elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday promised a stringent law against “love jihad” and district-level committees to check illegal land occupation affecting the “demographic balance” of the hill state.
Releasing the BJP manifesto for the Uttarakhand assembly elections at an event here, Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari said the party has focused on three main pillars of “ethics, economy and environment”.
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“The manifesto, named Vision Document-2022, has covered all the sectors, including health, education, infrastructure and economy. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP-led governments at both the Centre and state have done many significant development works in Uttarakhand in the last five years,” Gadkari said.
Polling for the 70-member Uttarakhand legislative assembly will be held on February 14 and the votes will be counted on March 10.
Focusing on the party’s Hindutva plank, the BJP manifesto promised to make amendments to the existing law against “love jihad”, making it more stringent with a “provision of 10-year imprisonment for accused”.
“Love jihad” is a term used by right-wing activists to describe relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women, but one that the courts and the Union government do not officially recognise. Several activists and legal experts argue that such laws could be used to target Muslims and infringe on the fundamental rights to equality, freedom of religion, and life and personal liberty.
The BJP also promised to pay ₹2,000 per year to poor farmers in addition to the amount they get under the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi, if voted back to power in Uttarakhand. Under the PM-KISAN scheme, a financial benefit of ₹6,000 per year is provided to the eligible farmer families, payable in three equal installments of ₹2,000.
The manifesto also put emphasis on infrastructure development, tourism, stopping migration, employment generation, women empowerment, farmers, horticulture and dairy development.
The party promised to pay ₹2,000 per month to women heads of Below Poverty Level (BPL) families as well as an additional ₹1,000 to them to take care of their small children. A separate fund of ₹500 crore for women self-help groups and ₹500 crore each for horticulture and dairy development were also promised in the poll manifesto.
Addressing the event here, Gadkari asked voters to “shower their blessings” on the BJP.
“If BJP comes to power again, then many more development works would be carried in the state to make it one of the most prosperous states in country.”
Union parliamentary affairs minister and party’s Uttarakhand poll in-charge Prahlad Joshi, BJP state chief Madan Kaushik, Haridwar MP Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, former chief ministers Trivendra Singh Rawat and Tirath Singh Rawat were present on the occasion. Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami joined the event virtually from Khatima as he could not fly back to Dehradun due to the bad weather.
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The manifesto also promises setting up an empowered committee to look into demographic changes taking place in the hill districts. The party called it “a vital step for a secured Uttarakhand”.
In September 2021, the Dhami-led government expressed “serious concerns” over demographic changes in certain areas of Uttarakhand, saying that attempts were being made to “vitiate communal harmony in state”. The government directed the director general of police, all district magistrates and senior superintendents of police to constitute district-level committees and prepare a list of “outsiders with criminal background involved in illegal land deals”.
Around the same time, Dhami had also announced that the government will make “stricter provisions in the existing anti-conversion law, Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018”. He said the law will be made more stringent to tackle cases of “love jihad” in the state.
The manifesto also promises three free LPG cylinders a year to the BPL households, a decision seen as a counter to the Congress’s promise of providing cooking gas cylinder for under ₹500 to every household in the state, if voted to power.
Addressing the event, manifesto committee coordinator Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said, “It is a manifesto by the people and for the people. Unlike other parties, we will fulfil all the promises mentioned.”
The state unit of Congress, meanwhile, termed the BJP manifesto a “bundle of lies”.
“They should first answer the public on why they didn’t fulfil the promises, including bringing Lokayukta, waiving farmer loans and providing laptops to the students, made by the BJP before the 2017 elections. None of the promises has been fulfilled,” said Congress state general secretary Mathura Dutt Joshi.
On BJP’s promise of a stricter law against “love jihad” and committee to look into demographic changes, Joshi said, “It (the BJP) should be ashamed for trying to spread communalism in Uttarakhand, which is known as Devbhoomi. People are not going to fall for their lies now.”