Maharashtra: BJP's manifesto

The BJP released its manifesto, promising to propose the names of Veer Savarkar, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule and Annabhau Sathe for the Bharat Ratna. It also said it would create a crore jobs in the state over the next five years and spend Rs.5 lakh crore on infrastructure.

The manifesto also said all proposed memorials, including the ones for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian Sea, Babasaheb Ambedkar in Worli and Balasaheb Thackeray at Shivaji Park in Dadar, would be completed.

A memorial to A B Vajpayee would also be built.

The Savarkar announcement triggered sharp reactions from the opposition, which accused the saffron party of showing its “true colours” of hardline Hindutva.

For the BJP, the focus on Savarkar sits well with the assertion by its president Amit Shah that nationalism and defanging of Article 370 were relevant in the state election.

While Hindu nationalists hail Savarkar as a freedom fighter, the Congress, especially Rahul Gandhi, maintains he kowtowed to the British.

The BJP looks up to Savarkar as a national icon, as does the Sangh Parivar, as he formulated the theory of Hindutva in the early 1920s. Savarkar was never a part of the RSS but was president of the Hindu Mahasabha for five years starting 1937.

The promise comes at a time when BJP ally Shiv Sena has been pushing for a Bharat Ratna for Savarkar. The move is seen by a section of political observers as part of the BJP attempt to take an emotive issue away from its now-junior ally in the state. The inclusion of social reformers Sathe and the Phules, all of whom fought for elimination of the caste system, in the Bharat Ratna wish-list is expected to roundoff the BJP proposal with an inclusive touch.

The manifesto also said a crore families would be connected to self-help groups and internet connectivity would be provided across the state. “The manifesto has been prepared keeping future needs and challenges in mind,” CM Devendra Fadnavis said.

Housing for all by 2022, the flagship scheme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be accomplished along with drinking water connectivity and basic civic infrastructure, said the manifesto.

The state along with the Centre will spend Rs.5 lakh crore on infrastructure, besides a separate fund for road infrastructure, said the manifesto. Fadnavis said that given the fact that road construction agencies were overburdened, a separate agency would be set for maintenance of roads. The party also promised it would complete 30,000 km of village roads in the next five years and provide timely rehabilitation to project-affected persons.

Nadda, who was former Union health minister, said 40 lakh people would be covered for healthcare and health check-up at the age of 30, which would be compulsory and provided free of cost. Education will be another focus area with institutes like IIT, IIM and AIIMS being set up in the state and the scope of scholarships will also be increased.

While the BJP in government will provide social security for labourers it will provide financial aid to settle families of deceased army and police personnel, said the manifesto. Released only in Marathi, the manifesto promises a drought-free state in the next five years, 11 dams to create a water grid for drought-hit Marathwada and water harvesting for the Konkan region so that its excess rainwater does not drain into the sea. “It is a multi-dimensional document which focuses on connectivity, agriculture, youth, education, health,” said Nadda.

At the press conference to release the manifesto, Fadnavis defended the decision to make Article 370 an issue for the assembly election, saying the Congress and NCP were criticising it as they had no issues for the polls. “Their 15-year rule in the state was unsuccessful. The entire country is for Article 370 and the Congress and NCP are against it. We need to take this to the people and so we will talk about it,” he said.

On the ongoing crisis at the PMC Bank, Fadnavis said once the government is sworn in he would meet the union finance minister and ensure the depositors get relief.

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