Too sacred to serve up at one go

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  • Published 4.04.14

New Delhi, April 3: Over 75 lakh Indian voters will not be blessed with the BJP’s “pavitra dasthawez (sacred document)” before they head to the polling booths on Monday unless Narendra Modi and Murli Manohar Joshi iron out wrinkles on the manifesto.

Differences over “nuancing” the BJP’s position on the Ram temple and “swadeshi” economics have delayed the release of the party’s manifesto.

It was officially announced today that the manifesto would be placed before voters on April 7, the day the general election kicks off the ground and six MPs in Assam and Tripura would be elected.

Realising that releasing the manifesto after the elections would send a wrong message to a region that has often complained of neglect by the national parties, the BJP today issued a “press statement” on the Northeast states.

The statement, which more or less replicates the concept of phased polls in releasing manifestos, too, detailed the NDA government’s contributions to the region and Modi’s “strong message” to China that “no power on earth can take away even an inch from India”.

Not many voters take at face value the contents of election manifestos but the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister himself had conferred on the would-be document the title of “pavitra dasthawez” since “it contains promises that must be redeemed within a time frame”.

Asked if the staggered releases would not further alienate the Northeast from the BJP, which does not have a significant presence outside Assam in the region, Nirmala Sitharaman, the national spokesperson who issued the statement, said: “Modi has constantly flagged the region’s issues in his speeches.”

“All that remains to be released is a hold-all printed document,” she added, opting for a term less reverential than “pavitra dasthawez”.

Till last week, the BJP had claimed that the manifesto would be out before April 3, a date that coincided with the start of the auspicious phase of Navratri.

Sources said Joshi, who helms the manifesto committee, pleaded he could not get away from Kanpur, his new constituency.

“He came to Delhi for a day to attend the central election committee meeting. The BJP workers were furious because they thought that Joshi was deserting the constituency before it voted. Therefore, he requested the leaders to defer the manifesto release so that he could spend a length of time in Kanpur,” an Uttar Pradesh BJP source said.

Joshi was already sulking for being shifted out of his old seat, Varanasi, to accommodate Modi.

Others said the Kanpur itinerary was only a partial explanation. Joshi, they said, wanted a categorical restatement of an old BJP position of promising to construct a “bhavya” (splendid) temple to Ram in Ayodhya.

Modi, the sources said, was against such a commitment after the Supreme Court stayed the judgment of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court that had suggested a three-way division of the Ayodhya land.

Modi’s stand was conveyed by veteran Yashwant Sinha at a briefing last Sunday in which he said the manifesto would not “overemphasise” the temple and would iterate the position that it would be built through judicial intervention or by evolving a consensus among the stakeholders.

It is learnt that Modi has “possibly” had his way. The sources said right through electioneering, he was cautious not to raise issues of faith with a divisive potential in most of his speeches.

The BJP is also said to be divided over linking welfare measures to asset creation with the old guard preferring populism for the sake of populism because it feels large sections of voters do not care for prudent economics.

Modi has also steered clear of taking an explicit position on foreign direct investments in retail. The BJP, which counts traders as its supporters, is against such investments.

Sources said the manifesto would emphasise the need for an economic turnaround and fiscal robustness in “equal measure” with social inclusion and a rights-based architecture for the poor.

On Monday, the BJP’s phalanx of leaders is expected to be present to put up a “show of unity”. The sources said another reason for the delay was the inability to get the leaders together because several were grounded in their constituencies or criss-crossing the country.

Such a reason does not gel well with the image of a tech-savvy party that prides itself on its organisational and logistic skills, especially since it was known for almost a month that the elections would begin on April 7.