BJP reveals little of governance agenda

The BJP has failed to draw a distinction between its own basic approach to Indian society and politics and that of the Congress, which it hopes to replace in the structure of national power

Narendra Modi, the BJP’s PM candidate, has steadfastly refused to take questions from the media over the last six months that he has campaigned energetically across the nation for its highest political office, and he refused again on Monday when his party manifesto was released. But he should have stepped up to the plate if only to elucidate the 41-page document that is so full of generalities, often even inanities, that it reveals little of the party’s personality or its agenda for governance.
Mr Modi persistently saying “no” to answering media queries, he should note, is giving rise to concerns that his understanding of national issues, and the complexities these hide, may be less than adequate. That naturally leads to a host of other questions.
The BJP manifesto was a long time coming. It was eventually released to the public on the day polling began for the Lok Sabha election amid speculation that there were serious differences within the party on important matters, including on the stance to be adopted even on key Hindutva issues such as the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya. In spite of this delay, the party has failed to draw a distinction between its own basic approach to Indian society and politics and that of the Congress, which it hopes to replace in the structure of national power.
It is only on the question of a uniform civil code that the difference is underlined, but it is couched in the language of gender equality, as though this cannot be achieved without a UCC. That is ridiculous. It is well to appreciate that 99 per cent of our laws are already uniform. The part in the civil code that is not the same for all relates to the personal laws of different communities in matters like division of property within a family and the estate of a deceased, besides permissible marriage systems. The question that is worth pondering is: should a pluralistic society not allow legal flexibility to cover the domain of the personal?
Sample some of the points in the manifesto. It commits itself to building the Ram temple in Ayodhya within the constitutional framework. But this amounts to fudging the issue as no government can act in any matter outside the framework of the Constitution in any case. On another particularly saffron point of the BJP agenda, the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution that binds Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian Union, the manifesto blandly states that it will discuss the issue with “all stakeholders” and remains committed to the goal. This also looks like ducking a thorny question. The matter had in fact been left unattended by the last BJP-led NDA government.

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Much as I am tempted to see the fuss over Ved Pratap Vaidik’s posturing as a warning against busybodies and meddlers, wholesale condemnation of what is known as Track Two diplomacy might be unfair.

There is considerable speculation about when the Planning Commission will be reconstituted and who will occupy the largest room in Yojana Bhavan.