The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday promised minimum income support to all farmers and a pension scheme for small and marginal farmers and small shopkeepers as it released its manifesto for the upcoming general election.
The BJP’s re-election promise sought to counter the pledge of its principal rival, the Congress party, which said it would provide minimum income support of Rs 72,000 per year for 20% of the country’s poorest families -- a move that would likely cost the exchequer Rs 3.6 lakh crore.
That assurance also went beyond the government’s own scheme, implemented since February this year, which provides small farmers with a cash handout of Rs 6,000 a year. The manifesto suggests this initiative will be extended to all farmers should the BJP get a second term.
The party, however, did not outline how these schemes would be funded.
Unveiling the BJP’s manifesto, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said that the government will spend Rs 25 lakh crore on India’s rural sector in the next five years if elected to power.
Singh also said that farmers will be provided interest-free loans of up to Rs 1 lakh for a period of five years, besides ensuring digitisation of land records.
The middle class was also on its mind as the BJP said it was committed to revising the tax slabs to “ensure more cash and greater purchasing power”. It further promised to simplify the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.
The party also reiterated earlier pledges on national security and terror, doubling farmer incomes by 2022, passing the controversial Citizenship Bill, ushering in a Uniform Civil Code and building a Ram temple in Ayodhya at the site where the Babri mosque was brought down in December 1992.
BJP president Amit Shah said that in his five years in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had launched more than 50 initiatives ranging from housing-for-all to a health insurance scheme for 50 crore people.
Shah further said that the BJP was going ahead with 75 resolutions that it aims to fulfill by 2022, when India will complete 75 years of independence.
In fact, the party said its vision extended to 2047, the centenary year of independence, with the BJP aiming to lay the foundation for India to become a developed economy in the next five years.
The BJP said that its policies will ensure that the Indian economy will be worth $5 trillion by 2025 and double that size by 2032.
The ruling party further said in its manifesto that it will offer collateral-free credit of up to Rs 50 lakh to entrepreneurs and develop 22 “champion sectors” to drive economic growth.
On national security, the BJP said it would implement a National Register of Citizens -- a measure to weed out illegal immigration -- across the country while also promising to annul Article 35A (special rights) and 370 (autonomous status) in Jammu & Kashmir. Both measures are likely to generate controversy if implemented.
On the infrastructure front, the BJP has promised metro networks across 50 cities and supporting states to develop their highway networks through a 'Bharatmala 2.0' scheme.
The government additionally promised 200 new schools of the standard of Kendriya Vidyalayas. It also said that the number of MBBS and specialist doctors will be doubled in the next five years, while promising one medical or postgraduate medical college in every district.
The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases across the country from April 11 to May 19. The results will be declared on May 23.