| Union finance minister Jaswant Singh with Mamata Banerjee after the release of the NDA agenda in Delhi. (PTI)
New Delhi, April 8: Promises and more promises and plans marked the National Democratic Alliance’s vision of a brave new India that would be an economic superpower in five years, as articulated in the manifesto released today.
If returned to power, the alliance promised a country with a 10 per cent annual growth rate, housing to all by 2010 and an end to poverty by 2015 — ambitious timelines for a country where 25 per cent of the people live below the poverty line.
One promise among the many in the 36-page glossy involved new coal projects and laws to allow private mining, which is sure to raise the hackles of Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. She objected to the clause and crossed it out with her pen before signing the manifesto.
Leaving aside this one hitch, the manifesto tried to smooth over another — that of angry farmers who have been attacking the ruling coalition for striking down moves to hike the minimum support price of crops bought by the Food Corporation of India and its failure to provide credit to rural areas.
The highly detailed agenda paper made a placatory gesture of promising the highest priority to farming.
Holding out the hope of a second green revolution to make the country the “food factory for the world”, the agenda said: “India’s eastern states have fertile lands and plenty of water which could support a new food basket.”
Also on the alliance table were the proposals to raise foreign investment limits in the insurance sector (now capped at 26 per cent) and allow overseas investors to enter retailing — until now an exclusive preserve of Indian shopkeepers who form the biggest support base of the BJP.
The promises of more jobs, higher incomes, an open-sky policy and continued privatisation “to enhance and realise the hidden wealth in public sector undertakings” were also there.
The NDA, the manifesto said, would support the domestic IT industry to enable it to achieve the goal of $50-billion exports by 2008. “Fiscal and policy support will be given to enable India to become a major manufacturer of telecom, IT hardware and consumer electronics products both for domestic and export markets.”
A separate ministry for international trade was on offer to capture global opportunities, promote special economic zones and multi-commodity exchanges and remove internal trade barriers.
The manifesto said an action plan would be drawn up within six months of the NDA government coming back to power to make India a global manufacturing hub in pharmaceuticals, automobiles, auto-components and engineering goods.
Also promised were a dozen task forces, missions, boards, mega funds and action plans to take care of the garments industry, infrastructure incubation development and fisheries, cattle development and women’s role in farms.
There were also detailed plans to develop ports, shipping, roads and airports, including the construction of 10 world-class airports. Promising an e-governance initiative, the manifesto indicated an increase in telephones from 7 crore now to 30 crore-plus by 2009. The manifesto also promised to wipe out revenue deficit in the states by 2006.