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Modi bullet marks on manifesto

- Point-wise focus on growth, jobs & prices
Narendra Modi

New Delhi, April 6: When the first draft of the BJP election manifesto ran into 150 pages, an impatient Narendra Modi apparently put his foot down.

Visibly impatient at the “sheer verbosity”, and true to his reputation for reducing promises to one-line chants, the prime ministerial candidate asked that three-fourths of it be deleted, sources said.

Modi wondered if it was necessary to go into specifics like “providing subsidised nets to fishermen”. According to the sources, he said the contents should be compressed into bullet points with “not a wasted word”.

When the manifesto is released at 9.30am tomorrow, it is expected to focus on big-time infrastructure creation, jobs, price stabilisation, a revival of manufacturing and making farming profitable.

“Every page will carry Modi’s imprint,” a source said. The Gujarat chief minister will be at the party headquarters to preside over the release, which has been delayed by over a week.

The delay has been attributed at least partly to differences between Modi and drafting panel chief Murli Manohar Joshi.

The BJP is expected to claim that it drew a “record” one lakh-odd suggestions from the public and, therefore, it is a “people’s manifesto”.

Party insiders said the manifesto would be low on populism, packages and Hindutva piety. There will be token obeisance to the Ram temple, a common civil code and the abrogation of Article 370, but the “economy and growth” would be the centrepiece of the document.

The high points are expected to be the launch of India’s “most ambitious programme of infrastructure development” involving national highways, railway lines, tourism and affordable housing. Housing and tourism have been identified as spheres that could potentially contain approximately 35 million jobs.

Modi is so obsessed with revving up infrastructure that, sources said, he could pump money into 400 dormant projects worth Rs 18 lakh crore through a special government fund.

On investments, the manifesto is likely to paint a broad picture without the specifics of sector-wise foreign direct investments because the BJP maintains that it is against FDI in multi-brand retail.

But the manifesto may restate Modi’s case for modernising domestic retail and integrating it with the global order to pump up the job market.

The manifesto is expected to zero in on job prospects in “strategic labour-intensive” manufacturing industries (textiles and footwear), and on creating a national network of career centres that are “transparent, tech-driven and offer counselling and training”.

Modi wants the manufacturing industry to get more investment-friendly by reducing red tape and mandated government inspections.

The manifesto could also look at offering cheaper loans to small and medium enterprises, small retailers and students. Sources said Modi was “firm” that interest rates on student loans should be lower than those on car loans.

They said Modi believed that there should be selective interest-rate interventions, and that the monetary policy cannot be the RBI’s sole domain.

EC clarifies

The Election Commission has clarified there is no bar on a party releasing its manifesto on a polling day, but it cannot be publicised or telecast in areas where voting is being held, PTI said.

“Election manifesto can be released any time,” chief election commissioner V.S. Sampath said in Calcutta on being asked about the BJP’s scheduled release tomorrow.