BJP promises to push for Bharat Ratna for Savarkar
The BJP also promised to make Maharashtra free of drought, one crore jobs, homes with drinking-water connections, compulsory health tests for those turning 30 years of age and Internet connectivity in every home.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday released its manifesto for the Maharashtra Assembly elections, promising that, if re-elected, its government would recommend the names of Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar and social reformers Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule for the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award.
The BJP also promised to make Maharashtra free of drought, one crore jobs, homes with drinking-water connections, compulsory health tests for those turning 30 years of age and Internet connectivity in every home. The state is set to vote on October 21, with the results out on October 24. JP Nadda, the BJP’s national working president, released the party manifesto in Bandra in the presence of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, BJP’s state unit president Chandrakant Patil and Mumbai unit chief Mangal Prabhat Lodha.
“Swatantrya Veer Savarkar’s contribution to the freedom movement, to Maharashtra and the Marathi language will be recognised, and the state will recommend his name for the Bharat Ratna. BJP’s alliance partner, the Shiv Sena, has been endorsing a Bharat Ratna for Veer Savarkar since as early as 2009 and 2015. However, it is the first time the BJP has officially acknowledged the recommendation,” said Fadnavis.
Jyotiba Phule was a social reformer and anti-caste activist. Savitribai and him were considered among the pioneers of women’s education in India.
Sena spokesperson Neelam Gohre said, “It has been long overdue that we as a state acknowledged Savarkar’s contribution to the Marathi language, to the culture of Maharashtra and his ideology in essence. Sena has been demanding this for so long. The state government will ensure it is done.”
The Opposition termed the announcement a populist pre-poll promise. “There is nothing more to it, other than using historical figures to woo voters before an election. Why didn’t BJP promise this during Lok Sabha? I would like to ask BJP if even its own leaders endorse Savarkar’s views? We respect this leader, but we do not agree with his ideology, and will continue to oppose the announcement,” said Sachin Sawant, the chief spokesperson of Congress.
“The entire manifesto is eyewash. What comment can I make about one empty promise? We will be happy if BJP honours Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule,” said Nawab Malik , spokesperson of Congress’s alliance partner, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) .
Regarding the manifesto on Tuesday, Fadnavis said, “It is an all-inclusive and progressive manifesto.”
“The manifesto is a well-studied and serious document,” Nadda said.
The BJP has promised a drought-free Maharashtra in the next five years if it returns to power and said it will work towards it by connecting 11 dams under the Maratha water grid project and diverting the waters of the Krishna River to drought-hit areas.
The ruling party’s poll document also promised solar power for more than 12 hours during the day in all villages to run farm machinery — by building infrastructure to harness 1,500 megawatts of solar power.
Fadnavis also promised to connect one crore families to self-help groups (SHGs) with focus on creating employment for women and safe drinking water for all households as part of his party’s manifesto. Screening for diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiac diseases, eye check-ups and blood pressure at the age of 30 for all citizens was another area of focus in the manifesto. More seats have also been promised in all educational and employment institutes across the state for open-category citizens, in light of reservations announced in the state that have eaten into the open quota.
“The open category will get the same number of seats as it had before 2018. We will examine and expand seats, which will benefit not only the open category, but also increase the number of seats in reservation quotas,” Fadnavis said.
It promises homes to every homeless family by 2022, with safe drinking water connection and internet connectivity in every household, and 30,000km of new roads across Maharashtra.
Fadnavis also announced the creation of an agency to maintain roads, which will be separate and independent from agencies that make them, such as the Public Works Department (PWD) or the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), to reduce their burden.
The manifesto said the party will create a fund of ₹5 lakh crore for the construction of basic amenities and infrastructure, such as irrigation facilities, roads, urban infrastructure, Metros, railways and airports.
However, party spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, “This includes aid from the Central government as well.” The manifesto announced a Mumbai-Nagpur bullet-train project, which will be kick-started in the next five years, and the development of ten ports in the Konkan region.
It also promised government aid for rehabilitating families of deceased Indian Army and police officers. For women, the manifesto promised sanitary napkins at ₹1 and 50% inclusion in all financial development projects in the state.Fadnavis also tackled questions on why the Sena and BJP presented separate manifestos despite being in alliance.
“We always present separate manifestos. We even did so during the Lok Sabha elections. We are two separate parties. We have come together to form the government. The BJP respects this and will fulfil Sena’s manifesto along with the BJP’s,” Fadnavis said.
The BJP with its smaller allies are contesting 164 of the 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra, while the Uddhav Thackeray-led party is fighting 124. The Sena, which had pressed for at least 135 seats, settled for fewer Assembly seats and two seats in the Maharashtra Legislative Council from the BJP quota. It is also contesting its lowest number of seats in the Maharashtra elections.
Political analysts have criticised the manifesto for being populist and called the promises ritualistic. Prakash Bal, senior political analyst, said, “These are all assurances and not much is actually implemented. If BJP wants to reserve ₹5 lakh crore for projects, where will the money come from? The state is already in debt. The other promise of awarding Bharat Ratna to Veer Savarkar has only sentimental value and is being done as emotional manipulation.”
Bal also questioned if the manifesto promises are feasible, such as the compulsory health check-up for citizens above age 30, and construction of 30,000km of roads. He said, “How many promises from 2014 were fulfilled? There is no way to verify the government claims, because even statistics are smudged.”
Fadnavis on PMC Bank
Chief minister Fadnavis also addressed the Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank crisis. “The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is the licencing body, but the state is not shirking away from responsibility. The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) is taking action. The culprits have been arrested, their assets seized, which will be auctioned to raise money.”
“For account holders, I have promised that after the election code of conduct is dropped on October 21, I will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and request him to let the state do everything in its power to release account holders’ money,” he said.