Are manifestos relevant?
Source :News Bharati English   Date :08-Apr-2014

Are manifestos relevant?

Manifesto is basically statement of intent. There is lot that needs to be read between the lines to understand the real intent. Leave aside hidden agenda, there is also matter of political will. Converting this intent into action requires strong political will says Ratan Sharda

A few days back, writing in Firstpost, R. Jagannathan wondered whether there is any need of a manifesto. He was discussing the delay in BJP’s manifesto. He noted a little irreverently that for BJP ‘Modi is the manifesto!’ I nearly agreed with him. I realized that I hardly pay attention to political manifestos all these years. I have been a keen participant in elections since 1977 (post emergency) and do read broad policy formulations of major parties, but I take it with a fistful salt. Because to me, the leadership of any political formation is more important than the policies enunciated in a manifesto and past history of that party. If the leadership is sincere towards its country and is capable, any good policy will give results. If it is incompetent, even the best policies will end up as disasters. Our last 10 years are a proof of this truth.

$img_titleManifesto is basically statement of intent. There is lot that needs to be read between the lines to understand the real intent. Leave aside hidden agenda, there is also matter of political will. Converting this intent into action requires strong political will.

I took lot of pains in reading AAP yesterday as it is being touted as the new alternative to stale politics of Congress and BJP and regional parties. I have not read Congress manifesto seriously as as their manifesto is only a rehash of old promises. They talk as if somebody else was in power all these years! All they need is to plead for course correction.


Of course, AAP has nothing to worry as they are sure they will not be in power, so they can write anything. But, as the new rising star on Indian political horizon they are honor bound to declare their intent. So, what are AAP’s intentions? Some of the points are unexceptionable. Like its concern for security and integrity of the country, concern for the dispossessed and concern for secular fabric of this nation. Its economic outlook is more close to BJP’s earlier swadeshi focused policies.

However, when we look at their actual conduct, we find that they were more interested in scoring political points than worrying about their constituents. Talk of their leaders about plebiscite in Kashmir and referendum in Naxal affected areas doesn’t gel well with the pronouncements. If one were charitable, one would read their equating Muslims as the only minority as their immaturity. But, it is hard to believe that a founder member of the stature of Prashant Bhushan could forget about all other minorities including newly minted ones by Congress regime. There is not a single mention of Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, Bouddh or newly declared minority - Jains! They have equated law and order as fast redressal of cases against Muslims, forgetting about thousands of citizens suffering indignities for years in jails for lack of law and order machinery. They seem to forget that people like Sadhvi Pradnya and Col Purohit and others have been languishing in jails for years without being chargesheeted under the law they have been arrested. In this regards they are closer to Congress. So, who are they? Spouting ideas of gram sabhas, mohalla sabhas; trying to map Gupta period ideas on a humungously populous country without concern for debate.

Their insistence on Janlokpal Bill makes many people believe that it is panacea of all ills. But, where will this manpower come from? Same society, same cadre that produces police personnel, judiciary, vigilance squads and enforcement personnel. Honesty will percolate from top to bottom just as corruption flows from top to bottom to be fed bottoms up. Only then any law will work. By corruption, I mean not just economic corruption but also moral corruption. There is a deep seated discomfort about moral corruption of this group. Thus, AAP manifesto fails on generating trust in voters.

Congress has decried that BJP has copied Congress manifesto. Interestingly, it made the same charge against BJP even in 2009! I just read this when I was going through my old notes just now. I had noted at that time that I feel it is a good sign that both big parties of India have some kind of consensus on major economic issues. The difference comes from political will and history of delivery. Atal Behari Vajpayee government had come with low expectations but delivered much better. It stood up against western power play. Modi and all BJP chief ministers have delivered as per their assurances or beyond expectations.

However, apart from the seemingly common points in manifesto, there are some excellent ideas like research on Thorium, which is available in India aplenty and can take care of our energy requirements for nearly 150 years. There is talk of creation of national agri-market through an agri-corridor. This is bound to affect the way farming is done and marketed in India. It recognizes rapid urbanization of India as unavoidable, so it wishes to manage it pro-actively rather than the way we have been doing all these years, basically trying to resolve problems created by haphazard urbanization than planning it. It talks of empowering youth, the nation and energizing the country.

I have tried comparing the manifestos of two main contenders and also the third distant media propped competition. I have found a general conformity about all major points with variation in language and stress. This means critical problems of the country are well understood by the political class. The answers are also known at a broad level. The difference is between the lines and between walk and the talk. Ofcourse, there are a few fresh ideas in BJP manifesto. E.g. it is the only party which is not patronizing towards minorities. It is the only party which is not trying to be mai-baap sarkar to the common people. The difference is between like offering a fish to a poor person and teaching a person skill of fishing.

I hope people understand this critical difference between intent and delivery, between patronizing government and empowering government. This is the real issue in these elections.

Author is a commentator of socio-political issues