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BJP’s poll opera
l No tax on income up to Rs 3 lakh
l Rice, wheat at Rs 2 a kg
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Manifesto promises...

n Farm loans at a maximum interest rate of 4 per cent.
n Waiver of agricultural loans.
n Abrogation of Article 370.
n Construction of a grand Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.

New Delhi, April 3
In times of the country’s worst financial crisis, principal opposition party at the Centre - the BJP - today promised the moon to its voters by announcing a slew of sops, including rice and wheat for Rs 2 a kg, full tax exemption for defence personnel and raised I-T exemption slab of Rs 3 lakh.

All this and more forms part of the BJP’s vision of “Ramrajya” - something the party’s prime ministerial candidate, LK Advani, stressed rather forcefully on the occasion of Ramnavmi today.

Soon after the BJP manifesto was released in the presence of party veterans, including president Rajnath Singh and leader Murli Manohar Joshi (who headed the manifesto committee), Advani described his party as a “nation-first party” and recalled Mahatma Gandhi’s dream. “Since Gandhiji’s times, the country has been aspiring for Ramrajya. Our manifesto promises nothing less than that, if people trust us,” he said.

Setting the tone for sops — which appear out of place in recessionary times — Advani proudly mentioned the party decision to promise a defence package laced with tax exemption for defence and paramilitary personnel; one rank one pension and 10-fold rise in honorarium for gallantry award winners.

Economic basis for reservations for others except SCs/STs/OBCs is another promise Advani made, backing the establishment of smaller states like Telangana and Gorakhland. That explained the Gorakhland Mukti Morcha’s presence at the ceremony; the outfit joined the NDA today.

That apart, the manifesto retains BJP’s toughness on terror, including the commitment to POTA-like anti-terror law and Indo-Bangladesh border fencing. But that’s the only section where the manifesto turns tough; otherwise it maintains an overly generous tone throughout its 48-page run, committing huge financial sops -- tax waivers and 4 per cent interest on loan to farmers; I-T exemption for those earning Rs 3 lakh a year (the limit for women and elderly is even higher at Rs 3.5 lakh); complete exemption on interest income on bank deposits for all except corporates and abolition of fringe tax benefit. The party further promises study loans at 4 per cent and double salaries for anganwadi workers.

Also on the sop list are 1.2 million IT-enabled jobs, reduced computer prices, a bicycle for each BPL family girl who attends school and tax exemption on pension income of senior citizens, besides reduction in the age from 65 to 60 years for senior citizens availing travel benefits.

In many ways then, the document appears “sarvavyapi” and “sarvasparshi” (all-encompassing and all-inclusive) as maintained by party leader Venkaiah Naidu. It even remembers to make room for environment, protection of tiger and cleaning of major rivers, including the Ganges - something the Congress missed to mention. Then, there is a commitment to make clean water a fundamental right, deliver health to all by 2014 and send a man to the moon even sooner.

But how all this is to be done is something the party does not say. “You will know that after we come to power,” said Advani, when asked what his priority would be, if voted to power.

Contrarily, BJP president Rajnath Singh was more firm in his commitment on poll promises. “We’ll end the crisis of credibility in politics, which the Indian voter is facing. We will review our performance on promises every year,” said Singh, hailing the manifesto as “impartial unlike others”.

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