The BJP released its Manifesto for Lok Sabha 2014 on the very day that the first phase of polls was held. Why this delay by the party that is promising miraculously efficient governance? Well, the answer was revealed by the BJP’s ally Ram Vilas Paswan, who declared that ‘Manifestos don’t matter,’ since Modi’s intent is known to all. So, the voter is asked to vest blind faith in the ‘Modi Mantra’ of development (carried by BJP’s website and voiced in Modi’s speeches), rather than ask for specifics in a Manifesto. And, equally essential to the Modi campaign are the calculated communal signals sent out in the speeches of Modi and his lieutenants.
What does the BJP Manifesto, belatedly released, tell us? Much of it is florid phrases and vague statements of intentions. But a close look reveals, beneath the camouflage, some significant pointers to the BJP agenda under Modi. First, the Manifesto belies all the claims by his apologists and new-found friends that Modi now stands for ‘development’ rather than divisive RSS agenda. The core Hindutva agenda is very much present: Ram Temple in Ayodhya; abrogating Article 370; ban on cow slaughter, while other issues dear to the Sangh camp are also present in disguise.
The BJP Manifesto’s claim that it will seek to construct the Ram Temple at Ayodhya “within the framework of the constitution” is ironic: after all, the question of constructing this Temple there has arisen only thanks to the criminal and unconstitutional demolition of the historic Babri Masjid! Recent sting tapes have revealed further evidence of the fact that the demolition was meticulously planned with the blessings of the top BJP leadership.
The BJP Manifesto brings back the agenda of ‘Uniform Civil Code’ as a mode of gender justice. In the Hindutva dictionary, UCC has always been ‘code’ for imposition of curbs on Muslim personal law in the name of gender justice. The women’s movement, instead, has struggled for gender justice rather than ‘uniformity’ in personal laws. Personal laws of all religions including Hindu personal law continue to be discriminatory to women. Women from all faiths are in fact struggling to reform and reinterpret personal laws in gender just ways – and the way forward must be to support those efforts. Moreover, the BJP’s own track record on gender justice is abysmal. Its fraternal organisations affiliated to RSS, like Bajrang Dal and ABVP, regularly seek to impose bans on women wearing jeans, celebrating Valentine’s Day, and Hindu women having Muslim male friends. The Sangh’s Durga Vahini and Rashtra Sevika Samiti advise women that wife-beating may be well-deserved, and should be borne in silence. Recently, Sangh outfits beat up a woman councillor in Karnataka for campaigning for a Muslim candidate. The BJP Manifesto is silent on such instances of moral policing by its own fraternal organisations, and is also silent on the ‘honour’ crimes committed by khap panchayats. The BJP Manifesto’s section on Youth, significantly, begins with a quote from Vivekananda, calling upon ‘Young men’ to respond to the call of the nation; young women, and their concerns for their freedom and autonomy from patriarchal restrictions, are missing from the Manifesto. In this backdrop, any talk of Uniform Civil Code has ominous overtones of the imposition of a Hindutva code on all women.
For workers, the BJP Manifesto promotes the concept of ‘Industry Family’, in which “industry owners and labours bond as a family.” Inside a ‘family’, there can be no room for Unions and workers’ struggles and entitlements; so, naturally, the BJP promises to “bring together all stakeholders to review our Labour laws”. Similarly, the Sangh’s antipathy to caste based reservations can be seen disguised as a reference to ‘Social Harmony’: according to which “identity politics and tokenisms” for SC/ST/OBCs will be replaced by “education and entrepreneurship.”
On the substantive issues of economic policies and corporate plunder, the BJP’s plank is identical with that of the Congress. It pursues privatisation (disguised as ‘People-Public-Private-
The most disturbing part of the BJP’s poll agenda, of course, is the relentless communal hate-speech by its leaders, led by Modi and Amit Shah. In speech after speech, Modi has ranted against what he calls a ‘pink revolution’ – the policy of subsidies to meat producers – that he pits against ‘green revolution’ of subsidies to farmers. He refers to meat production as ‘massacre of animals’. His aide Amit Shah, in inflammatory speeches on Jat platforms in the Muzaffarnagar-Shamli area, has referred to ‘beggars becoming millionaires by running slaughter-houses’ and promised that BJP will ‘put a stop to this.’ This is not so much about BJP’s policy on meat production, as it is about a devious communal campaign to associate Muslims with violence. While the BJP Manifesto speaks of ‘cow protection’, deliberately evading the fact that beef forms part of the diet of several communities across India, it makes no promise to discontinue meat subsidies. In fact, in the past decade in Modi-ruled Gujarat, meat production has doubled! So, Modi’s and Shah’s references to ‘pink revolution’ are mainly intended to paint an evocative picture of the violent Muslim. And of course, the Modi Manifesto is silent on the fact that it’s subsidies and sops to corporates that are robbing both farmers and meat producers (both part of food production) of their rights!
The BJP’s myth of Modi ‘development’ magic in fact unravels in the face of the fact that both its Manifesto and its leaders speeches are laced with communal venom. Defeating this communal-corporate fascist agenda is the major challenge of this election.