Narendra Modi vows to develop India in election manifesto

BJP also commits to making nation the world's third-largest economy

Indian PM Narendra Modi displays a copy of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's election manifesto for the general election, in Delhi on Sunday. Reuters
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a number of promises for the development of the country’s youth, women, farmers and the underprivileged as he unveiled his election manifesto in Delhi on Sunday, days before the start of voting.

The general election will feature seven phases, beginning on Friday, with results announced on June 4. Nearly one billion Indians are eligible to vote.

Mr Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party are seeking a third consecutive term, with several opinion polls and media commentators putting the right-wing party ahead of its rivals in the world’s biggest election.

The BJP has launched a “Once Again Modi” campaign as his government highlights its goal of Viksit Bharat – Developed India – to make the country a developed nation by 2047.

"Our focus is dignity of life, quality of life, quantity and quality of opportunities," Mr Modi said at BJP headquarters after unveiling the manifesto.

“The work would accelerate soon after June 4. It is Modi’s mission to fulfil the ambitions of 1.4 billion people."

The 76-page manifesto titled "Modi ki guarantee" – Modi's guarantee – puts special focus on the youth, women, the underprivileged and farmers.

Its pledges include increasing jobs and infrastructure development, as well as the implementation of “One Nation, One Election” – holding elections to parliament and state legislatures simultaneously to increase transparency, reduce costs and improve government.

The party promises farmers an “unprecedented” increase in the government's minimum support price for major crops.

Farmers in India's northern breadbasket states have posed the single biggest challenge to the BJP since it came to power in 2014. They staged year-long protest outside the capital over three laws introduced in 2021 that would have effectively privatised the agriculture sector, ultimately forcing the government to repeal them.

The BJP also pledged to continue with free food rations for 800 million Indians under a scheme launched during the Covid pandemic and to provide an 80 per cent reduction on medicine at government pharmacies for those who need it.

Every person above the age of 70, irrespective of economic background, will be covered without charge by the Ayushman Bharat national health insurance scheme for treatment up to a cost of 500,000 rupees ($6,000), the manifesto says. The government will also build 30 million homes and provide free electricity to underprivileged families.

The biggest pledge, however, is to introduce the contentious Uniform Civil Code if Mr Modi wins a third term.

The BJP has campaigned for decades to introduce a law covering marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption that applies to all of India's various religious and ethnic groups, instead allowing each to follow their scriptures and traditions in these matters, as is the case currently.

Uttarakhand, a northern state governed by Mr Modi’s party, has already passed a law along these lines.

Past promises

The BJP is banking on the Modi government's fulfilment of promises made to the voters since it came to power.

Home Minister Amit Shah, Mr Modi’s close aide, has claimed the government fulfilled more than 90 per cent of the pledges made in the past two elections.

One of its main achievements in this regard, implemented barely three months into its second term in August 2019, was repealing Article 370, which gave semi-autonomous status to the disputed Muslim-majority Kashmir region.

The revocation of the article over the disputed territory claimed by both India and Pakistan had been a long-term agenda of the Hindu nationalist party.

The federal government also revoked a constitutional provision that barred Indians from settling permanently in the region.

Mr Modi also succeeded in introducing the Citizenship Amendment Act, which controversially grants citizenship to persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries – except if they are Muslims.

But the main pledge fulfilled during the BJP's second term was the construction and opening of the Ram Temple, dedicated to Hindu deity Lord Ram, on the site of a 16th-century mosque that was demolished by Hindus in 1992. Mr Modi laid the foundation stone of the temple in 2022 and presided over its consecration in January.

However, the Prime Minister has failed to deliver on its economic promises, including the creation of 10 million jobs promised during the 2019 election. According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the country's unemployment rate hovered around 8 per cent during Mr Modi's second term.

Another of the key pledges made by Mr Modi was bringing back unaccounted money stashed overseas, but has reported little progress on this so far.

Mr Modi has also committed to make India the world's third-largest economy with a $5 trillion GDP by 2025, but the Finance Ministry in January said it would take another three years to achieve that target, and even then only if it manages to maintain the current growth rate of 7 per cent. India is currently the fifth-largest economy, with GDP of $3.7 trillion.

Updated: April 14, 2024, 10:16 AM