The two nationally rival political parties have left no stone unturned to fetch maximum votes. It is interesting how Congress Manifesto and BJP’s Sankalp Patra are two widely different paths making different promises. While promises concerning farmers and the poor strata of the country are a matter of economics, one would imagine that on National Security issues, the two parties would invariably see eye to eye, however, that is not the case.
A manifesto is ideally meant to be a glimpse into the soul of the party and how they propose to govern a billion people should the country choose to put their faith in them. BJP and Congress both have now released their manifestos.
Promises in BJP’s Sankalp Patra
- BJP promises to continue its ‘Zero tolerance policy’ when it comes to terrorism and extremism. It alludes to the Surgical Strikes and the Balakot Airstrikes to reiterate that it would continue to give a free hand to security forces.
2. An extremely important promise made by the BJP is to speed up the purchases of outstanding defense-related equipment and weapons.
3. Self-reliance when it comes to defense equipment is the BJP’s third promise as far as national security is concerned. It aims to strengthen indigenous manufacturing capabilities of India.
4. The BJP promises to focus on resettlement of soldiers and says that the Armed Forces would start working on a resettlement plan for soldiers 3 years before they are set to retire. This will include provision for skills training, so skills training, and financial support for higher education, for housing and for starting an enterprise.
5. Modernization of Central Armed Police Forces and assisting states in the process of modernization of police forces.
6. Enforcement of National Registry for Citizens in a phased manner. Interestingly, BJP makes a reference to the demographic change that has been forced upon some areas due to illegal immigration. This is a point that has been the pet grouse of its support base for a long time.
7. Smart Fencing to check illegal infiltration on all borders.
8. The manifesto says “We have completed building six integrated check-posts with another under construction to facilitate easier trade and travel from the neighbouring countries. We will further ease the movement of goods and people by constructing 14 more integrated check-posts by 2024. Aer completion of all the proposed integrated check-posts, all trade movement with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan will be conducted through the integrated check-posts”.
9. Establishment of National Committee for Strengthening Maritime & Coastal Security, Island Information System and National Academy of Coastal Policing, we will continue to take steps for ensuring the security of India’s long coastline.
10. Implementation of Citizen’s Amendment Bill that would grant citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring states. The manifesto says: “We reiterate our commitment to protect the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of Northeast. Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs escaping persecution from India’s neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India”.
11. Eradication of Left Wing Terrorism.
12. Abrogation of Article 370.
13. Commitment for the annulment of Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir. We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state.
14. Ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits
15. Provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and Chhamb.
Difference between the Two Manifestos
One of the most worrysome promises made in the Congress Manifesto is to dilute AFSPA and ensure that the presence of security forces are reduced in the Kashmir Valley.
While the BJP manifesto makes no fantastical promises and the Congress manifesto promises several things that the BJP manifesto includes as well, there are certain fundamental differences that make the Congress manifesto worrisome for India.
The Congress in its manifesto also says that it would balance “human rights” and “security” and ensure that the Army doesn’t torture, forced disappearances and indulge in sexual violence with impunity. The Congress has thus ensured that the effect of AFSPA is reduced in a disturbed area like Kashmir and pandered to the Left that wants the Army out of Kashmir. It has also effectively signalled to the enemies of the state that their motivated and patently false narrative of Army brutality in Kashmir would find resonance with Congress, should they be voted to power again.
Congress also says that it would be willing to talk to “all stakeholders” in Kashmir without any pre-conditions. One can only assume that this would also include separatists and the Hurriyat thereby granting them the legitimacy all over again that has been denied by the Modi government in the last 5 years.
While both Congress and BJP in their manifestos talk about strengthening the armed forces, Congress has always aimed at its empty rhetoric political ambitions and talks about Rafale Deal. Well, it should be noted that the Rafale deal was given a clean chit by the Supreme Court and the Congress party has been unable to prove any of their allegations.
While the Congress party shows immense disregard for minorities of the neighbouring countries facing persecution by promising the withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Bill, it also makes no reference of NRC (National Registry of Citizenship) in its manifesto. The Congress manifesto also makes no promises to ensure that illegal immigrants are weeded out from the Indian society and that illegal Bangladeshis are sent back. In fact, Congress goes a step further almost promising the ensure that illegal Bangladeshis and others are made citizens of the country.
The Congress manifesto is at best vague and at worst sinister when it comes to the NRC and that of weeding out the illegal population from India. The only people who would be “left out of NRC” would be people who can’t prove their citizenship. By saying they will ensure “No Indian Citizen” is left out, Congress is either reiterating the obvious or alluding to the fact that they would even be sympathetic towards the people who claim to be citizens but cannot prove their citizenship. Also, the fact that Congress mentions how they would “secure the identity of the indigenous communities” with respect to illegal immigration, leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
Though Congress Manifesto focuses on many elements for National Security but other points are also contributing towards balkanization of India and be severely detrimental to National Security. The BJP manifesto focuses on the continuity of their policies thus far a promise to fulfil the promises they failed to deliver on in the past 5 years. The Congress, on the other hand, has chosen to pander to elements who would much rather see India disintegrate violently into bits and pieces.