The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP poll mix: Local plus global Vision paper woos all sections

New Delhi, March 30: The BJP today tried to marry its traditional swadeshi tilt with its shift towards globalisation to woo its increasingly diverse votebank.

The BJP has had to fight the traditional protectionist mindset of some of its MPs and ministers, who are opposed to allowing foreign competition and privatisation of state-run firms. In the vision document released today, the party vowed to “broaden and deepen liberalisation”, cut taxes and weed out controls.

The document promises to provide world-class infrastructure in power, telecom and information technology so as to push the country towards double-digit GDP growth and into the ranks of developed nations by 2020.

The promises were obviously aimed at reinforcing support among its new converts — captains of industry who bankroll the party and young urban professionals who have turned A.B. Vajpayee supporters.

But keeping in mind its old guard and playing pragmatic politics, the BJP has also promised to support a strong rupee, fight unjust first world trade practices, protect “gau mata”, consider reservation for upper caste poor, support small businesses, push for a second green revolution and spend more on anti-poverty programmes and social security schemes.

These promises should go down well with its original vote bank — small traders and orthodox upper caste Hindus — and the farmers and urban poor that it now hopes to rope in.

Significantly, the vision document is silent on whether ceilings should be raised on foreign direct investment or labour laws relaxed in favour of employers or whether the flagging privatisation programme should be kickstarted.

The document released by party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu carries two photographs — one of a young Vajpayee sitting in the shadow of the Sangh parivar’s original swadeshi proponent Deen Dayal Upadhyay and another of a much older, reformist Prime Minister seated under the watchful eye of his deputy L.K. Advani. The latter has become the swadeshi lobby’s latest icon.

The swadeshi flavour is apparent in the statement that double-digit GDP growth will occur by mobilising domestic resources and turning Indian firms into Indian multi-nationals.

But the statement contradicts the steps taken last year by finance minister Jaswant Singh.

The minister, who sat through the document release today, opened the economy to greater FDI and portfolio investment flows which saw India’s forex reserves shoot up to an all-time high of $107 billion.

Many other promises contradict what the BJP has done while in power.

The party has been cutting down the number of well-meaning but useless anti-poor schemes even though the document promises greater spending on these schemes.

Similarly, it promises to take seriously Amartya Sen’s plea for a 6 per cent GDP spend on education though the government has been reducing its stake there in favour of the private sector.

Until now, Vajpayee the reformer has benefited the most from reforms despite protests from party hardliners.

The Prime Minister’s call for elections nearly six months ahead of schedule came on the back of successful reforms which have made the economy boom as well as a strong showing in Assembly elections and hope of peace with Pakistan.

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