New Delhi, April 8: The National Democratic Alliance manifesto released today made a marked departure from the 1999 edition, reflecting a clear imprint of the BJP’s Vision Document 2004.
Moving away from the earlier “moratorium on contentious issues”, the manifesto for “development, good governance and peace” dwelt at length on the Ram temple, cow-slaughter ban, protection of the demographic identities of Jammu and Kashmir’s three regions and reservation for the upper-caste poor.
The manifesto, however, was quiet on the BJP’s other obsessions — abrogation of Article 370, a common civil code and proscribing religious conversion — all of which figured directly or tangentially in the Vision Document.
But like the big brother’s document, the manifesto formulated its position on what are considered “contentious” issues in neutral language.
“We mentioned it (Ram temple) because we do not want to take the issue further and make it a subject of dispute and a poll issue,” said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who released the manifesto.
“No one can have a problem” with the articulation, NDA convener George Fernandes said.
The alliance’s position on Ayodhya was that an “early and amicable resolution of the issue will strengthen national integration”. While the “judiciary’s verdict in this matter should be accepted by all”, efforts should be “intensified for dialogue and a negotiated settlement in an atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill”, the manifesto said.
BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, at whose residence the release function was held, said Fernandes was persuaded on the “wisdom” of the Ayodhya inclusion. Fernandes reportedly read out the draft portion on Ayodhya to each of the allies, including Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee who was believed to have accepted it.
On the “foreign origin” issue, the manifesto said: “(A) Legislation will be introduced to ensure that important offices of the Indian state can be occupied only by those who are India’s natural citizens by the Indian origin.”
“Efforts will be made to evolve consensus for passing a central legislation for protection of cow and her progeny,” read the manifesto promise articulated under the “animal husbandry and fisheries” sub-head.
Also on offer was the ambitious promise to make India an economic superpower, with a 10 per cent annual growth rate, in five years and wipe out poverty by 2015.
The manifesto contained its share of sops for the minorities lumped under “minorities development agenda”, whose emphasis was the three Es of education, economic uplift and empowerment.